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End of Summer Garden

29 Sep

It’s the end of the summer….And that makes me unbelievably sad. It took me 3 weeks, but I have finally accepted it. And now I am ready for fall!

I had a great gardening year this summer. All four of my tomato plants produced a lot of fruit, and my basil has never been bigger.

The garden from the backside

Above is the garden from the backside- jalapeno on the bottom, tomatoes along the right, WALL of basil in the back!! Oh and my little mint pot on the left 🙂

Full view in front of garden

Above and below you can see how tall the basil is. I am roughly 5 ft 4 so you can see that some of the basil is over my head.

Basil is 5 feet tall

Below are some of the Early Girl tomatoes, and in the background you can see some green romas.

Fresh tomatoes on the vine

From the farmers market…..

Some great farmers market heirloom finds….

This is my FAVORITE heirloom tomato ever……the Ox Heart. It is most delicious with not that many seeds. Perfect with some kosher salt.

My favorite – the OxHeart

I’ve had a bowlful of these on my counter since July……it’s great to just pop a couple in your mouth whenever you want.

Bowlful of Babies

Sadly, I have started to pluck off future flowerblooms from my tomato plants since they’ll likely never get a chance at full bloom. But it’s been a great summer and I look forward to next April when I am consumed with selecting next summer’s plants and getting the garden ready to plant 🙂

Le Sigh………bring on the fall apple and pumpkin flavors!

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Pesto

23 Sep

I LOVE PESTO.

Love it. It took me 32 years to understand it….but now that I do, I cant get enough of it! Typically, I grow at least 9 plants of basil every summer and in late September I whack them all and make 15-20 batches of pesto to freeze for the wintertime!

Pesto is so easy. It’s adaptable. There are so many variations: basil, arugula, red pepper, parsley, sun-dried tomato, spinach…etc. There are variations on nuts you can use instead of the traditional pine nuts: pistachio, walnut, almond, sunflower seed….etc. You can also vary the types of cheese! Pesto is great!

Ingredients

I stick with the traditional pesto though. Recently, at one of my farmers markets, there was a vendor selling basil for “$2/a bunch”. I said “how do you quantify a bunch?” to which she replied – “as much as you can carry with your hands.” I made out like a bandit and instantly knew I was making pesto! Look at this pile of basil!!!!!!! You can practically smell it, cant you?

Pile of Basil

Closeup

The hardest part about making pesto is trimming all of the basil.

Here are all the ingredients dumped into the food processor. It’s as easy as that – dumping everything together into the food processor. Read the recipe to see my secret ingredient.

And here it is 2 minutes later all ground up into a paste:

Here is another closeup because this stuff is off the hook.

There are a couple people who are FANS of my pesto (My brother Pat and my friend, Jeff). So I am always sure to freeze several containers and give them out when I see them. I ALWAYS have containers of it in my freezer to either take with me to someone else’s house or to enjoy in my own. It is so awesome to have some fresh garden pesto on a dreary January day…..I think my brother and I are the only ones I know who can just eat spoonfuls of this stuff. Isnt that gross? So gross, but so good!!!!!

And here was the recent grilled pizza I made with this pesto on this day. It was so darn good. I feel like the vendor had a couple strands of Lemon Basil mixed into the regular Genovese Basil because there was a bright lemony taste!

I just hacked 3 of my 5-foot tall 9 basil plants this past weekend and made about 18 batches of pesto. Here are my tall plants – in the garden and then some of them hacked down waiting to be plucked apart:

Here is the assembly line of ingredients to make it easy to dump into the processor and keep moving.

What in the world does 18 batches of pesto look like? Well, to me it looks like heaven….

39 containers of deliciousness….

Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 anchovy (optional)

Directions:

De-stem and wash all basil leaves and dry thoroughly. Place in food processor with pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, and salt/pepper.

Turn food processor on and grind until it forms a thick paste (about a minute). Now, you may not want to add the anchovy. And you dont have to! But it adds another dimension to the flavor and makes it richer. I really enjoy it – it does NOT taste like anchovy at all.

Drizzle in olive oil while food processor is still running and run for another 1-2 minutes. Done!

Cherry Tomato Salad with Buttermilk-Basil Dressing

21 Aug

Are your cherry and grape tomatoes coming in like gangbustersright now?

Ingredients

I am picking at least 7-10 a day and they add up so fast. Sometimes I give them out to friends and co-workers, and other times I am able to consume them on a daily basis.

Dressing and Tomatoes

I was able to make this delicious and healthy salad out of my cherry and grape tomatoes with only 5+ ingredients. It is creamy, without any cream. In a weird way, it could be a nice substitute for a potato salad, too!

Freshly Dressed

This salad is incredibly easy to put together and takes hardly any time. It would be an awesome addition to any summer picnic or BBQ.

Closeup

I ate these so fast I couldnt get a pic

Cherry Tomato Salad with Buttermilk-Basil Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups different-colored cherry/grape tomatoes, halved if large
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 tblsp thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Put the cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss.

In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, basil, shallot, and garlic. Season with pepper.

Drizzle the dresing over the tomatoes and toss.

Mid-Season Garden Check-In

12 Jul

So it’s mid-summer and I wanted to take a pulse on the growth of the garden so far. I spend as much time watching it and inspecting it and, lately, watering it like crazy due to the heat and lack of rain.

Whats up, Gnomey?

My herb pot

My basil is growing like gangbusters!!!! I am nuts about ensuring I pinch off all the flower buds before they start growing. This makes the taste of the leaves better (not bitter) and also allows the plant to keep sending shoots up from the ground instead of getting taller and flimsier. I’ve been pinching leaves here and there for recipes – and loving every bit of it!

Look how tall that basil is!

Ground level

My tomatoes are doing really well! I have a zillion black cherry and yellow teardrop tomatoes that I am practically trying to COMMAND to turn ripe every day when I walk past……I also have roma tomatoes – it’s hilarious to watch tomatoes grow in an oblong oval shape. And my Early Girls are large and green…….I am willing them to turn ripe as well.

Early Girl

View of all 4 tomato plants from the back

These oblong tomatoes crack me up

I forgot to get a pic of my jalapeno plant…..but there are 3 decently-sized peppers on there, and I picked and used one last weekend for my muffins.

And then there’s my flower garden – it’s all come to life! The butterfly bush and milkweed are attracting TONS of monarchs and other butterflies – love watching it!

Flowerbed

And my hydrangea has 3 big blooms on it this year. I turned the color from blue to pink 3 years ago. It was originally in my front yard, but I transplanted it when I moved into the house 6 years ago. It took a while to catch on in the back yard. I am so proud of it 🙂

Hydrangea

I’ll update again in the middle of august to see how everything is growing! In the meantime, let’s all do a lil rain-dance – not only for me and other casual gardeners, but for our local farmers, too!!

Gardening Weekend…and the Farmers Market!

20 May
The forecast for this weekend was supposed to be 78-82 degrees, 100% sunny, and slight breeze….PERFECT for gardening! This weekend was also the opening day of the Lansdale Farmers Market! I’ll have to do an update of pics later in the season to show all of the fabulous produce. Obviously, since it’s May, there isnt much in the line of produce at all.

Finally open!

It was great to see my summer market friends again 🙂 Here are my faves:

Tabora Farm and Orchid – great stuffed rolls and breads! I’ve been frequenting their stand since the market first opened.

Tabora Farm Stand

Overbrook Herb Farm – my favorite stand at the market. Paul and his wife are the most gracious people with their wonderful produce and amazing knowledge of all plants and herbs. They always have something unique and I always come away having more information and knowledge than ever! Their produce and herbs are phenomenal and their prices are super!

Overbrook Herb – they are on the left

Philly Bill’s Dills……I love pickles. I am addicted to their habanero and jalapeno pickles!

Tub o’ pickles

Mainly Mushrooms….This was a new stand in the middle of the season last year and I fell instantly in love. Chris has such a fabulous collection of mushrooms that he has foraged and also has foraged for him and shipped. Some are also cultivated. He has signage that clearly explains what the mushrooms are and where they have come from. He also has interesting things other than mushrooms – like ramps and fiddleheads and dried mushrooms. My favorite are the locally harvested maitake that come out later in the season. I’ve also had his lobster mushrooms – they TASTE like lobster and you can put them in eggs and risotto. Delicious! Chris will tell you how to cook up your various types of mushrooms in order to get a great flavor from them.

Mainly Mushroom Stand

Red chanterelles on the right, maitake on the left

The spread….

Lobster musrooms – it even looks like lobster meat!

Windy Springs Farm…..I love their produce. It tastes AWESOME and is always priced so well. I frequent their stand for tomatoes, cantaloupe (honestly, the BEST cantaloupe i’ve EVER tasted), and zucchini. In the fall, I get my pumpkins and squash from them! Today they only had honey and beef and eggs. I bought 2 dozen of their eggs that were just laid that morning – talk about fresh! I am planning to try their meat this summer. My neighbor swears by it.

Windy Springs truck…I’ll update later this season with their produce

It was crowded and there were a couple other vendors that I perused….here is a scene:

Random aisle of vendors

It was also the local 4H Plant Sale. I had never been but heard that it was one of the best plant sales around! They have nursery/gardencenter-sponsored plants for sale in all types of species. They also have plants that Master Gardeners have started and planted for sale…..There were some amazing collections! They had a TON of heirloom veggie plants and fruit plants, annuals, perennials, herbs, bushes, shade plants, trees, and pond plants. It was FABULOUS. I know for next year to get up EARLY and stand in line when it opens!

4H Plant Sale

And another view of the plant sale

After runing some more errands, I was ready to start gardening! I love this time of year. Since it was about 3:30 and I was getting a late start, I decided to do my front yard to get it over with. I had 5 azalea to plant and then all the mulching. I loathe mulching, but when I start doing it I realize how easy it really is! I should have taken a before picture…I only have an after picture though.

Front Yard

Sunday is the day for the backyard! After some rest in the morning, it was time to turn the backyard into a thing of beauty. I got ALL of my vegetables from my local farm that I adore – Skippack Creek Farm. They are all organic, chemical/pesticide-free, and their tomatoes are to DIE for, amongst their other delicious produce! They are the reason I have fallen in love with Oxheart Heirloom tomatoes. They are generous and great to talk to!

Anyway, here are my before pics….

Patio and Veggie Garden

Back Garden

Some local compost I got from my brother’s township free community pile:

Compost Buckets

And the after……

Tomatoes in the back, rosemary on the left, jalapeno at far end, and 9 basil plants!

Impatiens, choleus, and milkweed planted and mulched!

Patio looking out

Herb pot….except for parsley, mint, and rosemary which are planted separately

Facing the house

I am exhausted, but sooooo happy that all the plants are in the ground. Now I sit back and watch and water 🙂 I hope everyone else was able to take advantage of the beautiful weather we had this weekend!!!

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