Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

I am currently taking some time off from blogging... but soon after the new year I will be back in full force starting the plans for early spring crops.

I still have lots of root veggies in the ground... nicely protected by a cover of snow. With any luck I should be able to continue harvesting these crops well into the winter months. It is only a few short months till early cold crop season!!

Happy New Year to all of you! Stay warm by the fireplace... the seed catalogues should start arriving any day now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

CSA week 23

I thought this was going to be the final pick up, but it turns out we will have one more next week! This has really been a fantastic season, and I highly recommend joining a local CSA if you are able. I will write more on this topic and a season summary next week after I pick up my final share.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Autumn Garden...

Sometimes I think this is the most beautiful time of year in the garden, maybe it's because I am trying to hold onto something I know is quickly fading away...

high bush blueberry


cool season crops

sage & carrots for thanksgiving

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

nearing the end...

CSA week 22

We are really getting down to the end of the CSA season, next week will be the final pick up. Sad in a way, but I have timed my Fall crops just right and I am very close to being able to start my own harvesting of Arugula and Baby Bok Choi. I am hoping to have a steady harvest of fresh greens well into the Winter months.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October Harvests

Still harvesting some wonderful root vegetables!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Last Fruit share....

Fruit Share. week 12

With great sadness, I picked up my final fruit share of the 2009 season

Here is the description of this week's share provided by North Star Orchard

Emperor Apples (Almost solidly red, but with a dull skin...there's no 'shiny' to them!) - These are possibly the hardest apples we've ever met. Unless you cut them with a knife, the first bite can be hard to achieve, but after that you'll be fine. They have a nicely balanced sweet flavor, and are quite juicy considering how hard they are!

Eclipse Apples (mostly dark red and shiny) - Don't let the color fool you; these babies are quite tart. Super-juicy though, with a flavor that reminds me of really fresh apple cider. You can eat these or use them to cook with. I understand they make a wicked-good apple dumpling.

Golden Russet Apples (golden and russeted!)- This is a classic, 400+ year old antique variety. Hey, if they look this weird and have been around that long, there must be something awesome about them....and there is! Golden Russet have an amazingly complex sweet flavor and a very unique firm texture. They're really unlike any other apple...but people who know them line up to get their hands on them! Great for snacking, if the kids are suspicious because of their appearance ...well, lucky you - you won't have to share!
(Caution: these kind of look like Asian pears! A good identifier is that they still have their full stems!)

Niitaka Asian Pears - Note: These are different from the 'Olympic' you received the past two weeks! Niitaka have a texture and flavor somewhat in-between that of Hosui and Olympic. They have a pleasant crunch, and their mildly sweet flavor is a great counterpoint to serve with curry or other spicy dishes and on salads containing spicy greens and/or strong cheeses. They also stand up well to cooking. These will keep for a very long time in your fridge...likely even to the New Year!

... and one personal note, those Golden Russet Apples (they are in the left side of the basket) are the tastiest Apples I've ever eaten!

Here is the entire season of fruit from North Star Orchards

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

harvest cards...

I am making a very limited edition of Harvest Prints from the photographs of the 2009 season. Hand made cards on acid free heavy card stock. The cards are 5" X 7" with an individual photograph on the front and a blank interior. The backs are signed and dated. I have made up a few dozen of these for personal use and thought I would offer them to readers of this blog. These are nice individual pieces of mini-art to collect, or would certainly make a thoughtful gift to a fellow gardener. $10 each, and that includes postage for first class mail.If you would like one, just browse through the blog and pick out your favorite photograph. I have made up cards for most of my favorite weeks of the Pennypack CSA photos, as well as several nice shots from my own garden. Just tell me what you want, and if I don't have it made already, I'll make up a new one. I have a Paypal account, and would prefer to use it for payments just to keep things simple.

Reach me at

Thanks again for reading and following this blog throughout the season!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October beginnings

Worm's eye view of the cold crop seedlings. Nice to have an entire bed of things sprouting while everything else is slowly withering away.

Monday, September 28, 2009

CSA Monday....

veggie share, week 18

Scallions, Green beans, Bok Choi, Kohlrabi, Red JalapeƱos, Garlic

fruit share, week 9

Descriptions of this weeks fruit share from North Star Orchard..

Stellar Apples (yellow and smooth) Wow..crunchy! Juicy! Flavorful! 'Round here, we like these way better than Honeycrisp. The combo of sweet flavor and crisp and juicy texture make these a real winner!

Razor Russet Apples (greenish/yellowish/russeted) Not to be confused with Asian pears...these are indeed apple-shaped! Slightly sweet and juicy with a great texture. These are one of our favorites for snacking.

Hosui Asian Pears - Super-sweet and yummy! Eat these right away or store them in the fridge to eat later in the week. I eat these skin and all; there's really no bitterness to the skin as there is in some other Asian pear varieties. Have a napkin handy!

Magness Pears - A sweet and juicy 'European' pear. These will need time to get a bit soft though, so let them sit on your counter for a few days until you can dent them with a finger. This can take 3 to 6 days, so you've got plenty of time to eat your other fruits first.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Salsa Verde

Earlier in the week I hand picked some Tomatillos at Pennypack Farm. There were no more regular Tomatoes being offered so I decided to try these as there were plenty of them out in the fields. Once I brought them home, I had no idea what to do with them. Several people suggested making a Salsa Verde, and after looking up a few recipes found that this looked like a fairly easy way to work with this strange and unknown fruit.

I started out by roasting about twenty Tomatillos, and a couple mild green peppers. I did this on a small grill rack directly over my gas range...

I love the smell of fire roasted vegetables...

Once I had finished roasting the Tomatillos, Peppers, and some Green Onions, I combined them into a food processor with a couple cloves of Garlic, a bit of Vegetable Oil, some Fresh Lime juice, and some fresh Parsley. (Should have used Cilantro but I don't have it in my garden). Most recipes call for some salt, but I didn't want to add any.

The finished salsa was very good, although next time I make it I'll use a pepper with a bit more kick to it. There is no heat at all in this one...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Walk through the garden....

Where did September go? Seems like yesterday it was Labor Day weekend, and now here we are a week away from October! Summer over, and Fall officially here. Amazing!

One of the peppers I grew this year were Tabasco Peppers, and I never picked any of them. I've been using my Thai Dragon Peppers to cook with. Earlier this week I cut down my entire Tabasco plant, loaded with fruit, and hung it upside down in a nice sunny spot to dry them. I still have another plant in the ground that is loaded with flowers and small fruits. I'm hoping I can coax along another harvest. I should have plenty of these nice dried Tabasco peppers for winter cooking...

Right after Labor Day I removed all of the Tomato plants from my main raised bed, and prepared the soil for Fall Crops, which consisted of nothing more than just turning it over and removing all remaining tomato plant debris. I let the bed rest for a couple weeks and on Monday of this week I seeded in rows of two varieties of Arugula, an Italian Arugula (Renee's Garden) and a Wild Rocket (Franchi), some Purple Top White Globe Turnips (Burpee), French Breakfast Radishes (Botanical Interests), Mache Corn Salad (Botanical Interests), and some Baby Pak Choi Green Fortune (Renee's Garden)...

By today, just about every row has germinated. We've had perfect weather for starting seeds... warm and humid with nights in the high 60's. Couldn't ask for better conditions to get the Fall garden off to a great start. Here is a close up of the tiny Arugula sproutlings...

For me, one of the best things about the last weeks of the season is enjoying the Herb Garden. Everything seems to gain an intensity of fragrance and flavor, and maybe that is simply because we know these are the last of the season's fresh herbs. In another month it will be nothing but dried herbs till Spring! I've still got plenty of Basil, Oregano, Thyme, and more Lemon Grass than I know what to do with. I have got to remember to dig up a couple of the Lemon Grass plants and bring them inside this year. They are tender perennials that do not survive the Pennsylvania winter.

One last photo. I have been posting occasionally about the amazing Strawberry season I had this year, and the story continues. Here it is a week from October and I am still finding beautiful fruit on a daily basis!

Hope you all enjoy every minute of the gorgeous Fall weather ahead. I am looking forward to some road trips into northern Pennsylvania and upstate New York to see the spectacular foliage and hunt down some late season farmer's markets.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pennypack Farm...

Some photos from Pennypack Farm in Horsham, Pa. This is the CSA where I get my weekly vegetables

picking blackberries

fall season crops

the herb garden

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CSA updates

Week 17

Week 8

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pennypack Farm...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CSA updates...

Wow... Week 16 of the vegetable shares from Pennypack Farm! As you may know from previous posts, each week I have taken a portrait of everything I have brought home from the farm. Not always something I have felt like doing after a long day, but I haven't missed a single week yet. I had a feeling that seeing the documentation of a full season of produce from a small farm, on a week to week basis, would be an interesting study. Maybe you have to be an obsessed gardener like me to appreciate this photo study. The set of 16 weekly portraits can be seen here... Veggie Shares 2009. Five weeks to go to complete the season!

Here is the fruit share for this week. I was particularly amazed by the pear shaped apples and I can't wait to try them...

Descriptions of this week's fruit share from North Star Orchard...

Liberty Apples (green with some red blush). Tart and very crisp, we like these better than Granny Smith as they have more apple-ly flavor, plus they're tart and crunchy. Use them for fresh eating or in cooking. They're great in apple cake!

Adam's Pearmain Apples (goldish-green russeted variety with some pink blush). This is a classic antique variety, and it sure packs the flavor! I wouldn't call it tart, necessarily, but it's certainly not sweet. Sugary-tart perhaps, with an intense and aromatic flavor. Addictive!

Encore Peaches (yellow with red blush) Allow to soften for 1 to 3 days on the counter.

Sugar Giant Peaches (dark red outside, white inside). Our last variety of white peaches for the year. Savor every bite!
Allow to soften for 1 to 3 days on the counter.

Hosui Asian Pears - Super-sweet and yummy! Eat these right away or store them in the fridge to eat later in the week after you've finished your peaches. I eat these skin and all; there's really no bitterness to the skin as there is in some other Asian pear varieties. Have a napkin handy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Seed sharing...

Is anyone interested in sharing and or trading heirloom seeds this Winter? Add to comments of this post what seeds you are saving from your garden. I am mostly interested in seeds from gardens in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and especially vegetables with a long heirloom history.

But please tell me what seeds you are saving regardless of your location! Maybe we can start a small network of seed sharing...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

went to a garden party...

I went to a garden party yesterday, and as I was talking to someone they pointed just over my shoulder, and when I turned around there was this beautiful Mantis right at eye level. I barely had to move an inch to take this photo...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

CSA September!

Who doesn't love this time of year? crisp air, and fantastic tasting harvests of fruits and vegetables! I've got 6 more weeks of CSA shares to look forward to. The Apples and Asian Pears coming from North Star Orchard have been incredible, and the veggies from Pennypack Farm never fail to impress me.

veggie share, week 15

fruit share, week 6

Friday, September 11, 2009

Seed Saving Time!

Many thanks go out to my friend Albert Yee for the reminder to save seeds! It is more important than ever after this really dreadful growing season. Any quality fruit that made it through this year of bad weather and Late Blight is surely a keeper and something you will want to grow again next season. It's important to make sure you save seeds from the best picks of the harvest.

I'm saving seeds from the three most successful varieties I grew this year... Harzfeuer, Schimmieg Creg, and Hahnstown Yellow.

There are several ways to save seeds... I have a friend who just squeezes the seeds onto a paper towel and lets them air dry. He has mailed them to me and I have grown them very successfully. These are the Santore Romas I grew last season. I started them again this year from seed and because I lost track of my plant labels as the seedlings got bigger, I ended up without planting any Santores in my garden this year. (Huge lesson learned!! Keep track of your seedlings!)

Earlier in the season I found a really excellent blog post on how to save seeds. It seemed really simple and foolproof so I saved it...

How to Save Seeds

It's a cold miserable rainy day here in Philadelphia, much like the season started. The perfect day to begin saving seeds for next season!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

final harvest....

final harvest 2009

The final harvest of the year is always bittersweet, but this year I am sort of glad to be finished with the dismal tomato season. Last season I was still picking wonderful tasting fruit all through October. Yesterday I decided to pull out all of the tomato plants and get ready for a full crop of cool weather veggies.

Today I have a slow cooker full of sauce simmering for the next 12 hours or so. I used up about half of the harvest, including 4 lbs of plum tomatoes I got from my CSA this week. About a gallon of sauce for the freezer, and plenty of green tomatoes for pickling. Plenty left for sharing with friends and lot's of great tomato salads for the next week.

Here is the bed all ready for seeding with cold crops like spinach, arugula, bok choi, broccoli, etc. I have plenty of seed packets left over from Spring, so I'll just use what I already have on hand.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

CSA updates...

Just realized I have been forgetting to post the weekly CSA photos....

CSA Week 13

CSA Week 14

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence is a traditional blend of herbs grown in the south of France. I've been drying my own herbs for several years now, and often give baggies filled with extras to my neighbors and friends. This year I decided to go with a bit more inventive and creative approach with a unique culinary blend to give as gifts. I found these great little containers on the internet.They really look a whole lot nicer than sandwich baggies.

This blend consists of Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Tarragon, Lavender, and Orange & Lemon peel. There are so many uses for Herbes de Provence, but I generally add some to a good Olive Oil and create an amazing marinade for chicken or steak.

It is also the perfect herb mixture for Chicken Soup. You can tie it up into some cheese cloth so you can remove it later, or just throw the herbs right into your stock for a more rustic soup.

Edit* Since a couple people have commented on these really cool containers, here is where I got them, and did I mention they were only 75 cents each? I have only purchased one order from this company, but I was satisfied and will order from them again...

Specialty Bottle Supply

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Schuuflie Boi

Shoo-fly pie is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch molasses pie that gets it's name from the required "shooing away" of flies attracted to the sweet molasses and brown sugar that make up the bulk of this pastry. These pies are sold just about everywhere in southeastern Pennsylvania, including most supermarkets, where you will mostly find a dried out miserable version not worthy of being called Shoo-fly.

Shoo-fly pie is easy to make at home and worth the effort. Like any home made pie, that first still warm from the oven piece is something that can never be duplicated in a store bought version. A real Shoo-fly pie consists of three layers after it comes out of the oven...a dry crumb layer similar to coffee cake, a moist cake-like layer similar to gingerbread, and a gooey bottom layer similar to what you get in a Pecan Pie. The amount of gooey-ness in the pie can vary depending on cooking times and oven temperatures, and you will sometimes hear the term Wet Bottom to distinguish a gooey bottom pie from a typical more cake-like pie. Wet or dry, a home made pie is always best!

Here is a recipe from a 1960's Amish cookbook...

Pennsylvania Dutch Shoo-fly Pie

Crumb Topping:
4 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp spices: salt, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, mace
1/2 cup shortening (no butter)

Syrup Filling:
1 cup molasses- dark
1 cup hot water- and i level tsp. soda dissolved in the hot water
3 eggs

Stir syrup and let cool. Have two 9 inch pie shells ready. pour syrup filling into crusts, dividing portions equally. Sprinkle crumb topping over syrup mixture, dividing topping mixture evenly between the two shells. Leave a little "air" in the center of the pies to allow for expansion and to prevent mixture from boiling over. Bake 1 hour in 350 degree oven.

Serve with coffee...

and if you are feeling ambitious, the same cookbook has this recipe...

Shoo-Fly Pie (Schuuflie Boi)

Pie Dough:
8 lbs flour
6 tbsp salt
4 lbs shortening
4 qts water
Mix 5 minutes on dough machine adding water gradually

20 lbs barrel syrup
6 1/2 qts boiling water
stir well

4 lbs flour
2 tbsp soda
2 tbsp salt
2 lbs shortening
4 lbs brown sugar
8 tbsp cinnamon

Roll sugar fine- mix well, 2 1/4 cups liquid to each pie, 11 oz crumbs to each pie. Bake at 350 degrees until crust turns light brown.
Makes 48 pies.

Monday, August 24, 2009

drying time...


This is the time of year I start harvesting my herbs in order to dry them out so I can continue using them through the winter. Freshly dried herbs from your own garden can be just as good as using fresh cut summer herbs, and in some cases even better. Some of the herbs I dry have an even more intense flavor dried than they do fresh, especially Oregano and Mint. Drying your own herbs saves a ton of money, and provides a winter's worth of culinary spice that far exceeds store bought herbs.

There is nothing to it... just cut a nice bunch, wash off any dirt or insects, then tie with a string and hang them upside down in a well ventilated place out of direct sunlight. In a week or so they will be ready to crush the leaves and store in a jar.
I have some great ideas for herbal blends this year, a take on Herbes de Provence, and when I am finished drying this season's harvest I'll post the recipes for what I put together.

Lavender & Chives