Extravaganza and Plant Fest 2013

I have been looking forward to Baker’s Acre’s Extravaganza event for well over a month.  When I picked up my cool weather crops about 3 weeks ago, I also got a chance to pick up a physical copy of their catalog.  Holding a catalog and highlighting the pants that I am going to buy brought me one step closer to them in the ground in my back yard.

Leaf Lettuce @ Baker's Acres Greenhouse

Leaf Lettuce @ Baker’s Acres Greenhouse

The Extravaganza started at 8pm, but I arrived around 7pm so I could look take a look around and get out the door shortly after it began.  With my catalog in one hand, and my gardening journal in the other, the hour flew by.  I started with the cucumber and right off the bat I was disappointed that I did not see the Mexican Baby Gherkins.  I continued through the greenhouse to the eggplants, tomatoes and then to the squash.  My cart started to fill up and I knew my trip would come to a close as soon as I could figure out what peppers I wanted to grow.

Baker's Acres' vegetable greenhouse

Baker’s Acres’ vegetable greenhouse

I had been debating over peppers because I want them to be very versatile ( used for grilling, pickling, hot sauce, fresh eating, etc) and be a variety of colors, but there is only room for four in my garden.  I ended up going with the Valencia Bell, Padron, Nepalese Hot Bell, and a Jalapano.  I really didn’t want to do a jalapeno because it sounds boring and you can buy them at the grocery store, but their versatility is just uncomparable to any other pepper.  I recently read a recipe to make your own Sriracha sauce on Food52.  To make this sauce, it requires Fresno chilis or red jalapenos.  Fresnos need warmer weather than Ohio (why they are usually grown in California), and you usually can’t find red jalaenoes at the grocery, so I figured I would just have to grow them to make this sauce.  The guy working convinced me to get the Nepalese Hot Bell because I told him about my experience with the Bulgarian Carrot Chili last year and how it was just way tooooo hot.  The Nepalese Hot Bell is not actually a bell pepper, but a pepper that is shaped like a little bell you would use as a chime.  The outside rim is sweet, and when you get closer to the seeds it gets hotter.  This pepper is the best of both worlds and you can adjust the heat to the needs of your recipe.  When researching peppers, I knew I had to get the Padron.  It just has a great story behind it.  They are used as a traditional tapas in Spain; fried up in some olive oil and then sprinkled with course sea salt.  They also give you a little surprise with one out of 20 being spicy and the rest nice and mild.  The Valencia Bell wrapped up the search for peppers being the sweetest bell pepper in a beautiful orange hue.

veggie greenhouse thepurpletomato.com

Another view of Baker’s Acres’ veggie greenhouse

I did ask the man about the Mexican Baby Gherkhins and he said he would do me a favor by grabbing a seedling for me and meet me in line if I prommised to keep it inside on the window sill till at least three more leaves sprouted.  Overall, the Extravaganza was successful, but I was sad that their purple tomatillos didn’t germinate.  I love the tomatillo salsa I made last year, but this also meant that I had at least 3 square feet to fill and I was planning on going to Plant Fest in the morning.

tomato lady thepurpletomato.com

The booth where I got 4 amazing heirloom tomato plants at Worthington Farmers Market Plant Fest 2013

The next morning I woke up bright and early and headed out for The Worthington Farmers Market Plant Fest 2013.  I was planning on only picking up maybe one special tomato plant, but I ended up taking home four beautiful heirlooms.  I also got Zephyr squash seedlings!!  I didn’t know anyone who sold them, but I knew I had to grow them after tasting them last year from the North Market’s farmers market.  These half yellow half green squash were so wonderful that I bought seeds online and was planning on planting them from seed, but alas, I have beautiful seedlings I an plot right into the ground and know they will produce.

veggie seedlings thepurpletomato.com

Veggie seedlings ready to be planted in my garden

Keep a look out for my 2013 plant list!  What are some new varieties you are planning on growing this year?

The BIG Plan!

I have been studying Baker’s Acres Greenhouse’s catalog and I think I have finally decided what I will be planting this spring!  I am sure when I go to their Extravaganza event on Friday, May 8 I will have a few last minute changes, but at least I have a general idea.  I also want to give other greenhouses a chance for my business like Cooley’s Greenhouse in Plain City and Fisher’s Gardens, but I need to see a list of their veggies first.

North Side: Peas and Beans

North Side: Peas and Beans

So far I have planted peas, braccoli raab, and Chinese kale seeds and tomorrow I will put down carrot and radish seeds.  I made seed strips to help with seed spacing since it can be hard to plant such tiny seeds with the right spacing (later post to come).

Square Foot Garden Plan

Square Foot Garden Plan

This year’s tomato theme is a cherry tomato rainbow.  Large tomatoes have never been my favorite, so why not grow 7 different kinds of cherry tomatoes?  I am also going to grow 4 different tennis ball size varieties.  In my square foot garden I also decided to alternate rows between the tomatoes and peppers/eggplant.  I learned from last year that even though Mel Bartholomew says that a tomato plant only needs 1 square foot, I discovered they need a little more room so other plants aren’t shaded by them.  In the row between the tomato row and the pepper/eggplant row I am going to grow early  harvest veggies like kolhrabi and bok choi because they will be harvested before the tomato plants get too big.  I also haven’t decided what peppers I am going to plant because I need some suggestions when I go to Baker’s Acres to pick them out.  I have a variety of needs from 4 pepper plants, and just too many options to choose from.

West Side: Tomatoes, lettuce and mini cucumber

West Side: Tomatoes, lettuce and mini cucumber

One vegetable that I am a little nervous about is the zephyr squash.  I saw these squash at a farmers market the past few years and I decided to finally google half yellow half green squash to figure out what they were.  I had to buy the seeds online since I can’t buy a plant to transplant, so hopefully they do okay from seed.

South Side: Squash, tomatillos, and root veggies

South Side: Squash, tomatillos, and root veggies

What veggies are you planning on growing this summer?

2013 Gardening Goals

I have been compiling a list of goals for my garden this year for the past few months.  When I came up with my list, I considered what I want as my end result, and what I feel I can actually accomplish if I really work hard.  When I first started to garden it was just on a whim.  I had two tomato plants, a zucchini plant, and an eggplant plant.  I probably didn’t give these veggies the love and attention they needed to be their best, but it gave me some pride when eating something I grew out of my garden.  The next year I added more veggies to the mix and I discovered Baker’s Acres Greenhouse.  Baker’s Acres opened my eyes to varieties of vegetables I had never seen or heard of before.  Last year I studied their catalog and ended up with 11 different verities of tomatoes, added 32 square feet of fertile soil by building a square foot garden, and started this blog.  I already can tell from the expectations that I have set for myself in this list, that this gardening season is going to be awesome.

Garden Planner

My cute garden planner courtesy of http://www.giverslog.com/

1. Keep a gardening planner- I have created a gardening planner and have included my 2013 goals, a list of seeds I will plant, a section for transplants I will buy at local greenhouses, and a calender.  My calender will be used to record what I plant and harvest each day, and to hold me accountable for when seeds need to get sown in the ground based on the last frost date.  To take this even further, I have done a little research about gardening by the moon and plan to plant seeds, transplant, harvest, and weed based on my findings.  To learn more about gardening by the moon, check out these web pages: Farmers’ Almanac Gardening Calendar, The Gardeners Calendar, and Organic Garden Info.

2. More documentation- This includes taking a picture of my square foot garden EVERY day, taking one picture of every plant and vegetable variety grown, making these cute plant markers to identify veggies in my garden, write blog posts at least twice a week, post what vegetables are in season every month, and share more recipes on how to use them.

3. Succession pant and pant care- This gardening season I want to make sure I do what is best for my plants to give me the best harvest.  Succession planting means to follow one plant with another.  This includes crop rotation and sowing seeds every few weeks so that you will always have fresh veggies like carrots, beets and radishes.  I will do my best to weed and pinch suckers from my tomato plants.  When you see a tomato plant sprawling it seems like the plant is doing great, but in reality, by pinching off suckers, it enables the plant to give more nutrients to the already growing fruits.

4. Share- I love growing what you can’t find at the grocery store, but sometimes it gets to be too much.  I did learn last year how to can salsa and blanch tomatoes to freeze for tomato sauce, but I still had vegetables that would go to waste.  There is only so much I can eat.  Now that I work with a nice group of coworkers, I will be able to share my bounty with them and introduce them to varieties of vegetables they have never seen before.

5. Compost- I already wrote a post about building a compost bin for my friend Caryn’s garden, but I am ready to make one for myself.  I have purchased a trash can and have bricks to set it on, and I have started to collect green material.  Now I just need to drill the holes and it will be set.  I’m glad the weather should be nice this weekend so I can get my compost started for next year’s garden!

What are your gardening goals for the 2013 gardening season?

Composting 101

 

The beautiful citrus salad Allison made for brunch

The beautiful citrus salad Allison made for brunch

Last Sunday I joined the lovely ladies of Urban Roots Columbus for our first Brunch and Build event.  When I heard about this event I was very excited to learn about composting because starting a compost bin is one of my goals for my 2013 garden (list to come in a later post).  We all met up at my friend Caryn’s house, and while enjoying a yummy potluck brunch, we discussed how we would be building the compost bin, what can be placed in a compost bin, and our plans to spread composting to the community.

 

 

 

What is compost you ask?  Compost is decayed organic material used as a plant fertilizer.  I have always added compost to my garden, but I have always bought it.  Composting is much simpler than I thought.  All you need is 1 part green to 2 parts brown. Green is almost any fruit or veggie scrap from your kitchen and green grass clippings.  Brown is brown leaves, twigs, and dead plants from the garden.  Coffee grounds and egg shells are also brown.  To compost egg shells, you much first rinse them out and crumple them into small pieces before adding them to the bin.  If you are unsure if something can be composted, check out this list.  Caryn chopped up ends of cabbage and other veggies for the green in her compost bin.  The smaller you chop, the faster the green and brown will turn into compost.  Do not compost dairy, meat, or cooked foods, as these attract animals.

Chop up food to be composted in small pieces

Chop up food to be composted in small pieces

Green= veggie and fruit scraps

Green= veggie and fruit scraps

Brown= coffee grounds, egg shells, and dead leaves and twigs

Brown= coffee grounds, egg shells, and dead leaves and twigs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building a simple compost bin was easy!  All you need is a trash can and a drill.  It did take us awhile to figure out how to use the drill we had, but once we were past that, everyone wanted to help drill holes in the trash can.  For the holes in the lid and the bottom should be 1/4 inch wide.  The holes on the sides can be smaller.  Holes are drilled in the trash can for aeration.  Oxygen helps prevent the compost from molding or rotting.

It took us awhile to figure out how to put on the drill bit onto the drill, but we finally got it!

It took us awhile to figure out how to put on the drill bit onto the drill, but we finally got it!

Caryn put some muscle into it!

Caryn put some muscle into it!

This is how we drill

This is how we drill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team work

Team work

Once we were done drilling, it was time to start adding compost the the bin!  Always start with a layer of brown.  We used leaves and dead vines.  Dead plants are great, but never include plants that died because they were sick.  For example, I can include my dead tomato plants because they died from the cold, but I will not include my dead zucchini plant because it died from powdery mildew.  Once a layer of brown was in the bin, we put a layer of green.  Guests at the brunch brought scraps from their kitchens to help fill the bin.  Continue to layer the green and brown.  Remember to use the ratio 2:1 for brown to green when layering your compost bin!

Empty compost bin

Empty compost bin

Brown Compost

The brown

All citrus peel can be composted except for lime

All citrus peel can be composted except for lime

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who knew compost could be so beautiful

Who knew compost could be so beautiful?

The beautiful ladies of Urban Roots Columbus

The lovely ladies of Urban Roots Columbus

When the compost bin has compostable materials in it, it should be placed in a sunny area and propped up on bricks or wood.  Propping it up off the ground helps with aerate the bottom of the bin.  The last step in making this type of compost bin work is turning it, which is very easy.  All this takes is rolling the trash can on its side at least once a week.  The more the bin is rolled, the faster your compost will be ready to use in your garden.

Ruthie with the lid

Ruthie with the lid

These tiki heads were keeping an eye onus

These tiki heads were keeping an eye on us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To get the compost working, roll your compost bin at least once a week

To get the compost cooking, roll your compost bin at least once a week

Place the compost bin on some bricks to lift it off the ground for bottom aeration

Place the compost bin on some bricks to lift it off the ground for bottom aeration

In the book All New Square Foot Gardening, the author Mel Bartholomew suggests using 5 different types of compost (ex: cow manure, mushroom, Poesy Power, etc.) if you don’t make your own.  I know I probably won’t have compost ready for my garden this year, but next year I will be able to add my own compost instead of forking out money for someone else’s scraps.  I can’t wait to start my own bin.  I already started collecting green from the kitchen and I have plenty of brown around the yard to include.

Do you have a compost bin?  Do you have any tips or suggestions from your experience composting?

Growing Plants Year Round: The Office Plant

The view out my office window

The view out my office window

My office plant makes me look forward to the spring every day I look out my office window at the snow.  I recently got a new job and needed something to freshen and brighten up my cube, so of course I went out and got myself a plant.  I did a little research and found out that office plants not only decrease stress and increase productivity, but some even absorb toxins in the air.  Space, light, and water are always important when considering what to grow, so make sure you take these into consideration when picking out a perfect plant for yourself. Take a look at this list of common office plants and maybe one will be perfect for you!

 

Peace Lily: easy care, cleans toxins from the air, requires a modest amount of sunlight, drooping will let you know when to water

My Peace Lily brightens my day

My Peace Lily brightens my day

African Violet: continually flowers, requires good light but direct sunlight is not necessary, soil must be kept moist at all times but don’t let water get on leaves, works well in a small space

English Ivy: cleans air of mold and allergens, will climb as high as you allow it, keep soil evenly moist, thrives under fluorescent light

Pothos: easy to grow, reduces indoor ozone, water only when soil is slightly dry, low to bright light but looks best in moderate or bright light, trim a few times a year

Jade Plant: requires bright light, drench soil once it dries, prune as needed in order to keep in a nice compact shape

This is just a small portion of plants that live well in the confined living conditions of a desk. Do some digging online and check out what plants your local nursery caries.  These plants were picked out for even the brownest thumb, so which plant will you pick to make your work day a little more enjoyable?

Sunshine in a Jar: Tanagelo Marmalade

 

Yumm!

Sunshine in a jar

Did you know that the winter is actually the season for tangelos? On Friday I got a present from H  &S Citrus! I got a whole crate of Minneola Tangelos (a hybrid cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit) and a crate of Ruby Red Grapefruit.  If you have never had a tangelo before, it is a must!  They are sooooo sweet and juicy, but the membrane around the segments can be a little tough to chew.  The amazing fragrance and sweetness outweighs any con someone might have about these cute bell shaped citrus.  Having all this fruit reminded me of the time my poppy would take me to a fruit stand on the side of the road in Florida for fresh squeezed OJ.

Ruby Red Grapefruit

Ruby Red Grapefruit

Honeybell Tangelos

Honeybell Tangelos only found in January

Yesterday was a rainy afternoon and I didn’t know what I would do with all the tangelos, so I did a little googling and came across marmalade.  Good thing I had all afternoon, because you will need a lot of time to make this recipe.  I can’t thank my sister Tess enough with the zesting and other tasks she helped me with.  If you have never made marmalade before or canned before, please read the whole recipe and do some of your own research about canning. You will need a canning pot that is sold where you buy mason jars.

 

Tangelo Marmade

Recipe adapted from Eugenia Bone and Apt. 2B Baking Co.

Makes 6 half-pints

  • 12 to 14 tangelos (for 6 cups of pulp)
  • about 1 1/2 cups of tangelo peel cut in matchsticks/ zested
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups sugar
  • Cheesecloth

1. Either remove the peel from the tangelos with a vegetable peeler or zest the peel with a micro plane.  I ended up peeling 3 tangelos, and zested the rest.  If you peeled the fruit, scrape as much white pith away from the peel with a knife or spoon.  Cut the peel into matchsticks as thin as you can because they will be what is suspended in your marmalade.  In a medium sauce pan, boil the peel/and or zest in the 2 cups of water for 10 to 30 minutes, or until the peel is soft.

Zest/Peel

2. While the peel is boiling, cut the remaining pith off of the tangelos and throw this away.  Supreme the tangelos by cutting the segments of fruit away from the membrane into a bowl along with any juice.  Separate out the membrane and the seeds and place them in a cheesecloth bundle.  The bundle will add natural pectin to the marmalade while it cooking the marmalade.

Tangelos ready to be supremedPulp ready to be made into marmalade

3.  When the peel is done, add the pulp, juice, cheesecloth bundle and sugar to the pot and boil the hell out of it (about 40 minutes) until it reaches 220 degrees.  I used a candy thermometer to watch the temperature. When it is done, give the cheesecloth a squeeze and discard.

Pectin bundle ready to goBubbling away

4.  While the marmalade is cooking, start boiling your jars to sterilize them.  Once the marmalade and jars are ready, ladle the marmalade into the jars leaving a half inch head room and screw the rings on tight.  Boil the marmalade jars with at least 2 inches of water above them for 10 minutes.  Once you remove the jars from the water, listen for the lids to pop to ensure they have been properly canned.

What a sticky mess I made

5. Enjoy your tangelo marmalade for breakfast, on a cheese platter, or as a marinade for fish or chicken.  It is very very very sweet and makes you feel like the sun is shining, even if it was a nasty rainy afternoon like yesterday.

So proud of myself

So proud of the finished product

Exactly what marmalade should look like!

Note: I was using a recipe that I doubled and ended up using only 1 cup of water.  I would totally recommend using 2 cups.  I think that is why I only got 5 1/4 half-pints.  This was my first time making marmalade and I think I did a pretty good job.  It probably could have been a little thicker, but I didn’t want to include any membrane in the actual marmalade because I don’t care for too much for stuff floating around in my preserves.

Omelet Stuffed Tomatoes

Almost every morning I eat scrambled eggs for breakfast.  It can get boring at times, so I change it up with ingredients like onions, mushrooms and tomatoes.  This morning I wanted to change it up a little and thought, what if I stuff my typical breakfast into a tomato?  And what a great idea it was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omelet Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 2 medium sized tomatoes (I used 1 Japanese Black Trifele and 1 Rose tomato)
  • 2 eggs (I used 1 whole egg and 1 egg white)
  • Whatever you like in an omelet
  •      1 large Swiss chard leaf, rib removed and chopped
  •      1/4 cup onion, chopped
  •      Chives, chopped
  •      Garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Step 1
Pick a few beautiful tomato from your garden (for from the grocery store)
Step 2
Prep all your ingredients.  Core the tomatoes and discard the woody core.  Scrape out all the pulp and pat the inside dry.  Chop other ingredients that you would like to include in your stuffed tomatoes.  I used Swiss chard, onions, garlic, and the scraped out tomato.
Step 3
Saute the onions and garlic in a sauce pan till translucent and then added the Swiss chard till it was wilted and season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Feel free to add in whatever you like in an omelet.  I don’t eat cheese, but I am sure cheese would be amazing in this recipe.
Step 4
Scramble 2 eggs in a bowl.  Layer the veggies, tomato, and eggs into the tomato cups and top it with the chives.  Make sure to not over fill your tomatoes or egg might seep out.
Step 5
Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until eggs are cooked all the way through.
Step 6
Enjoy!
So I over stuffed the tomatoes, but it didn’t matter!  They were sooo good!  I hope everyone has a fun and relaxing Labor Day weekend!!

 

Harvests

I have harvested a lot of tomatoes, cucumbers, Swiss chard, ground cherries, green and purple beans, peppers and eggplant!  Take a look at this photo album of all the pretty veggies I have had the pleasure of eating and sharing with my friends and family.

So Many Tomatoes! + Quiche and Salad Recipes

Sorry I haven’t posted in a LONG time… summer has just been flying by.  I have harvested soo many tomatoes it is unbelievable.  I have harvested at least 175!  I would say I have had a lot of Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes, but I have had a good share of beef steaks too.  I can’t even count all the cherry tomatoes because most of the time they are eaten right off of the vine.

Rose tomato

 

Over the weekend I made two wonderful dishes to share with my family and friends.  I made a tomato, cucumber and onion salad for a bbq, and I also made a roasted tomato and Swiss chard quiche for book club brunch.

 

 

Tomato, Cucumber and Onion Salad

  • 1 Great White tomato (or any medium to large beef steak)
  • 1 Striped Armenian cucumber (or 2 cucumbers from the grocery)
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cut your cucumber(s) in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds with a spoon.  Slice cucumber, tomato and onion in thin slices.  In a large bowl combine veggies with sugar and vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let rest in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Great White Tomato: not really write, but this is a great salad tomato because it is mostly meat, hardly any liquid

Striped Armenian Cucumber: not actually a cucumber, but really a melon that tastes like a cucumber. They can grow as long as 3 feet!

 

 

 

Roasted Tomato and Swiss Chard Quiche

  • 1/2 pint Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes (or any cherry tomato you have on hand), halved
  • 2 Orange Banana tomatoes (or 2 roma tomatoes), quartered length wise
  • 1 bunch Bright Lights Swiss chard, with stems removed and torn into pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Olive oil spray
  • fresh or dried herbs (I used fresh rosemary, thyme and something else from the garden)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (whatever you have in your fridge, I used skim)
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese (or melty cheese of your liking), shredded
  • 1 9in pie crust (I usually use a grahm cracker crust for my quiche because it is easy to pick up at the store.  You could also use a premade crust in the fridgerated or frozen foods section of the grocery store, or you can make make Martha Stewart’s recipe if you are really ambitious)
  1. Place chopped tomatoes with skin facing down on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Spray tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle herbs.  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 15-20 minutes till they look a little shriveled.
  2. While the tomatoes are baking, place the butter in a saute pan with the clove of garlic and saute with Swiss chard on medium heat till the chard is wilted.
  3. Take your prepared pie crust and sprinkle half of the cheese evenly on the bottom of the pie crust.  Distribute roasted tomatoes on the cheese, but leave a few for decorating the top of the quiche.  Distribute the wilted chard.  Mix together the milk and eggs and pour over the veggies.  Top with the rest of the cheese and decorate the top of the quiche with the remaining tomatoes.
  4. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, or until done.

Roasted tomato and Swiss chard quiche

What yummy summer recipes have you been cooking up?

First Big Havest!

This is my first big harvest of the summer!  I am so proud of what I have accomplished, but I am getting worried about my squash and zucchini plants.  The powdery mildew just won’t go away and the plants are not producing very well.  But I am happy to be harvesting tomatoes!!

The harvest! Reisetomate, Ananas Noire, Papaya Pear, Corbaci Peppers, Bulgarian Carrot Chili, ground cherries, and Orange Banana tomatoes

This is one hot Bulgarian Carrot Chili Pepper!

Papaya Pear Squash is ready to eat

 

Yummy Sun Sugar tomato

Another nasty bug has attached and left behind its exoskeleton

Ground cherries keep on falling to the ground

I made a really yummy tomato salad with my Reisetomate tomatoes and Ananas Noire tomatoes.  All I did was crack some pink sea salt and drizzle some 25 year balsamic and it was time to eat!  I also roasted the Orange Banana tomatoes with some EVOO and italian seasonings.

I love the colors of these tomatoes

Simple tomato salad with aged balsamic and sea salt

Oven roasted Orange Banana tomatoes with EVOO and Italian seasonings

If any one has an awesome tomato recipe, please post bellow and let me know what I should make!