July’s “GOOD TO KNOW” for the Mountain States Garden

Apricots

Excerpts from the Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Mountain States
(If you like this, you will love the book!) Look for it at your local book store or on Amazon here.

Know How

Blanching apricots. Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Carefully slide 3 or 4 apricots into the water, let them sit a minute, remove from the water with a slotted spoon. Over the sink, working quickly so not to burn yourself, slip the skins off the apricots. Separate the halves, remove the pits. Freeze as they are or make into jam.

Harvesting and storing garlic. (End of July – early August in most areas) Just a few months ago you plugged little cloves of garlic (pointed end up) into the garden and waited patiently. Now it’s time to embrace that stinking rose and get it out of the ground and ready for the pantry. Knowing the perfect time to harvest garlic is a bit tricky but not rocket science. Carefully brush back the soil and look carefully at the bulbs: do they have good looking shoulders? Are they filled out nicely? Sometimes you just have to go in with a trowel or shovel and have a peek. Gently and carefully dig straight down around the outside of the formed garlic bulb, loosening it from the soil and lifting it upward. Using your other hands, carefully remove the bulb from the soil and inspect it for fullness and size. Never try to pull the bulb from the ground. Brush off the soil, and remove the garlic to a cool, dry place to cure. If the bulbs are not quite filled out and ready, leave them another week or so. If they are ready, harvest, cure and store.

Making mint tea. Bring a large pot of clean water almost to a boil, turn off the heat. Add 4 to 5 black tea bags and a huge handful of freshly cut and washed mint trimmings to the pot. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Cool and enjoy over ice.

Fruit of the Loom.

Or, what’s looming in my future.

Black Gilliflower. Ashmead’s Kernel. Spitzenberg. Coming to my door. Tomorrow. YESYESYES!

From Trees of Antiquity’s catalogue/description:

An old English russet apple, medium size, golden-brown skin with a crisp nutty snap. Fruit explodes with champagne-sherbet juice infused with a lingering scent of orange blossom. Flesh is dense, sugary and aromatic with intense flavor, characteristic of russets. The Ashmead’s Kernel is a winner of taste tests and displays some resistance to scab and cedar apple rust.

Bloom: Midseason
USDA Zone: 5,6,7,8,9
Pollination: Required
Fruit Storage: Excellent
Mature Size: Large
Ripens: Late
Uses: Fresh eating/ dessert, baking, juice/hard cider
Rootstock: Semidwarf
Size when shipped: 5/8 to 3/4 inch caliper (width around trunk)
Height prior to shipment: 6 ft.(trimmed to 5’when shipped)
Shape when shipped : Feathered (prominent side branching) and Whips (no branching)

And then there’s Black Gilliflower. Who knew you could describe an apple as “hangs well on a tree.” Huh? So do monkeys. But who cares. I can’t even remember WHY I ordered this, maybe the name spoke to me. Maybe I need something to hang well.

Large, conical ribbed apple becoming almost dark purple. Distinctive flavor, reminiscent of Spitzenburg, rich and sweet, with a relatively dry flesh. Hangs well on tree.

Bloom: Late
USDA Zone: 6,7,8,9
Pollination: Required
Fruit Storage: Good
Mature Size: Medium
Ripens: Very Late
Uses: Fresh eating/ dessert, cooking (puree, applesauce, apple butter)
Rootstock: Semidwarf
Size when shipped : 5/8 inch caliper (width around trunk)
Height prior to shipment: 5 ft
Shape when shipped: Feathered (prominent side branching)

Oh yes yes yes. And you probably know about Spitz. More tomorrow. 

My favorite outdoor kitchen

cabana-kitchen-1

This is my all time fave outdoor kitchen. We call it the Cabana Kitchen.

It is steps away from the Pacific Ocean. Steps. Maybe 25 steps. I have seen the Pacific Ocean wash into this kitchen during one particularly high tide and storm. Yes, I was scared spitless.

It was built as an outdoor cooking spot for some friends who used to park their motor home a few feet away. Over the years, we have made several, um, improvements. For instance: party lights. We always have a string of party lights ’round the roof. A few weeks ago, we put a new string up, all white. I can tell you now, this is NOT going to work. All white is NOwhere near as festive as the multicolored Christmas lights we have come to adore. (Note to self, take several strings of multicolored party lights to beach next time you go.)

There’s plenty of hot water. Yes, Virginia, HOT water and running water. There is a hot water tank under the sink. We have a sink. It drains into the shrubs. So, of course, we use biodegradable dishsoap. We have a two burner camp stove and propane tanks to keep the fire going. We have a campfire ring because we accept no substitutes when it comes to making ‘smores. We have power so you can fire up the blender or cook under the lights or sizzle up an electric frypan. We have pots and pans and dishes. No Wolf or Viking or Aga here. No Subzero. Ever.

At the right time of year, you can catch Dungeness crabs in the surf and cook them in the pot on the stove. Campfire grilled oysters and clam chowder, anyone?

I share this kitchen with you because I love outdoor cooking. I have seen a lot of outdoor kitchens the last few years, and yet I know of none better used or loved than this one. You need a roof to keep you safe from the elements, rain or too much sun (this cook can be a delicate little flower), some running water (garden hose will do), a big ol’ dishpan/washtub for cleaning up, a place to chop, fire and power. Oh, and people to feed.

More rhubarb cocktails

For my pal Cindy, in smokin’ hot Katy, Texas: girl, you need this to cool yourself down!

I am not even gonna lie about it, this recipe is straight from page 69 of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life. Thank you for sharing, JO.

Rhubarb bellini
makes 6

300 g rhubarb, trimmed and finely sliced (this is equal to about 1 and a half cups)
75 g sugar (equals 1/3 cup sugar)
a bottle of bubbly, such as Champagne or Prosecco

Get yourself a small pan and throw in the rhubarb, sugar and a couple tablespoons of water. Put a lid on top, bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until you get a thick compote consistency. Whiz up with a hand blender or regular blender until you have a lovely smooth puree. Leave to cool, then stire again and divide the puree between six glasses. Pour over your Prosecco or Champagne, stirring as you pour, with a long spoon or something similar, until the glass is three-quarters full. Top it up with bubbles and you’re done/ Cheers!

Best recipes for garden vegetables

I know, I know! How boring is that post title? It is SO NOT me.

When I went to Amazon.com in search of the best vegetable garden cookbooks, I could pull up more than 200 and sometimes 600 matches. There’s a new one for sale about every other day. I should know, I own a few dozen cookbooks in this category ALONE. I decided to look no further than my own cookbook shelf. Here’s are my absolute faves:

“The Mother of all Vegetable Garden Cookbooks!” Hubba Hubba Bubba, now we are cooking. I am talking about the original Victory Garden Cookbook, by Marian Morash, published in 1982. Take a look:

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If you wanna know how loved that book is, try picking up my copy. Use both hands, please. The cover is no longer attached, it just has to go along with the book. The binding glue is cracking and falling all over the place. The book itself is trying to break into two or three booklets.

The Victory Garden Cookbook was a companion piece to the television program, the original Crockett’s Victory Garden, produced by Russell Morash. Turns out, Russ’s wife, author Marian Morash was executive chef on the Julia Child and More Company show. Russ is credited with discovering Julia Child in the 60’s and putting her on the tube. A star is born. So, having been clever enough to link together the Victory Garden Cookbook and Julia Child just days before the movie, Julie and Julia makes its nationwide debut, I best be sharing with the reasons I love this book.

It covers 37 vegetables. Anytime you have a pile of fresh zukes, eggplants, kohlrabi or leeks, open this book. The simplest of preparations are laid out for you, as well as a dozen or more straight forward delicious recipes for each veg. Under “Finishing Touches for Hot Snap Beans” is our all time favorite …”With Warm Salad Dressing.”

You will find page 111 all puckered with dashes of olive oil, red wine vinegar and the no doubt the juice of fresh tomatoes. This is the page for our beloved Caponata, a cold eggplant salad that is also fantastic over hot pasta. Fresh cold tomato basil sauce for pasta is a 15 minute wonder. The page with “Tabbouleh with Tomatoes” is also dog-eared. Corn? If you find yourself with a bushel of corn, this is the book for you. Dressings for raw celeriac? Right here. I discovered I loved fresh celeriac salad 15 years ago, in Los Angeles. I could get celeriac in Boise, but how to make it into a salad? This was before Google was a household word. I turned to Marian.

Second on my list, or the brother from another motha, is Jamie at Home, Cook Your Way to the Good Life. Yes, I have the DVD as well and probably the last season or two spooled up on TIVO. I like to drink and watch him cook mushrooms on a bed of straw in the forest. As many times as I have seen this episode, I am – every time – convinced he is going to set the woods on fire. I covet his handmade stone oven and his gardener Brian. At least he confessed to having a gardener. And that little garden hut, where he cooks up a storm? I want one of those, too. A blob, a mash, a nob, some lashings and gobsmack me right on over to the dinner table.

jamie-at-home

I am taking the fixin’s for Jamie’s (we are on a first name basis whether he knows it or not) Rhubarb Bellinis to a party tomorrow. Rhubarb juice, champagne, sugar and mint. Regular readers know my passion for rhubarb, and I have a nice batch of rhubarb juice all made up and resting in the freezer. If any rhubarb survives my penchant for reducing it to juice for cocktails, I might try making rhubarb and sticky stem ginger crumble. Someday. Maybe.

This cookbook is all about the seasons. It includes recipes for fresh spring lamb, chickens raised at home (or elsewhere if you must), preparations of fresh fruit and pickles. Make the Ultimate Mushroom Bruschetta, Amazing pickled and marinated veg, and someday, if it ever cools down, Italian bread and cabbage soup with sage butter. Promise me you’ll try the bread and cabbage soup. Its all about the good life.

Start with these two books. You’ll be glad you did.

ps, the idea for this blog template was borrowed from Jamie Oliver’s TV show. I love the notebook paper background he uses for his handwritten recipes.