End of July Garden Visit

Over the last days of July I collected pictures of what is going on in my vegetable and herb garden:

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The most recent shot, in the top left corner, gives an overview. You can see:

  • a  teepee bearing Fortex green beans. The lower left collage picture gives a closer look at bean plants with calendula flowers in the foreground.  If you look closely, you will be able to see beans hanging between the leaves, well camouflaged;
  • the apparently empty bamboo teepee in front is for Marketmore cucumber plants, not  visible in this shot, but shown in the collage photo at top right;
  • at front right of overview photo, a zucchini plant with huge floppy leaves (Costata Romanesco); yellow dill umbrellas tower behind;
  • at front left there are purple-blue borage plants and nearby,  yellow-flowered calendula;
  •  Sugar Daddy Snap Pea vines, growing on the trellis at the right, were finishing  this week with final  offerings.
  • the bottom right collage picture shows a yellow cherry tomato plant (Blondkopfchen) leaning against a spiral support. There are chive plants to the left.

In the collection of 10 photos below, travelling from top to bottom of each column, starting from the left:  winter squash plants (no flowers yet), a bowl of green beans, a tiny baby cucumber in the foreground, sorrel plant, spinach and swiss chard, red onions, baby green peppers, baby and mature basil plants, zucchinis very ready to  harvest, and cherry tomatoes.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Green Leaf Chomper

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Close Up.”

A couple of weeks ago I noticed debris on spinach leaves in the garden, and that huge bites had been taken out of some of them. It was the next day that I discovered this fellow:

I removed him from the garden and have been on the lookout for others, but have found none–the chomping has stopped.

This evening I tried to identify the worm/caterpillar, but discovered two things: first, that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different types of green worms and second, that I find looking at caterpillar pictures vaguely nauseating.  Anyone who has thoughts as to the identity of this rascal, please comment.

Borage #2 –Full Photo

This morning I posted Borage’s Star Flowers Attract Bees.  Then I went out into the garden to pick peas and lettuce. While I was there I was able to get this shot of a full borage plant to add to the previous post’s gallery  of flowers and leaves.  Getting a full uncluttered shot hasn’t been easy — this is the best so far. image

Borage’s Star Flowers Attract Bees

Borage is a versatile herb and an excellent addition to flower and vegetable gardens. Some of its alternate names are very descriptive–they include “Star Flower”, “Bee Bush” and “Bee Bread”.  I grew borage for the first time last year– as garden lore says, it is great to have around to attract bees and other pollinators.

This year,  several borage plants  came up on their own, conveniently, on the borders of the beds.  I love self seeders.  I planted some cherry tomatoes in the back unfenced garden this year–a small distance from the main plot where the self seeding didn’t reach.  Since borage is supposed to be very good for tomatoes, not only encouraging pollination, but also deterring tomato pests, I planted some borage seeds nearby.  Unfortunately, when they were three inches high some creature bit them off, leaving only tiny stem stubs behind. The prime suspects are a rabbit, deer, or porcupine. Oh well.

What can you do with Borage?  Last year I enjoyed the tall, fuzzy flowering plants and didn’t experiment with their edible leaves and flowers. This year, I was more adventurous and made borage tea using fresh leaves.  I added honey and ice–a very pleasant drink.  Some people float a few of the edible flowers on top and add a dash of lemon.  If you come across some fresh borage leaves, add one cup of boiling water to 1/4 cup of bruised (lightly crushed) leaves; steep for 5 minutes; strain, add honey, and drink hot, or chill for later.

Another use for borage  is making flavoured vinegar.  Since I have a steady supply of leaves, I am thinking of doing that–soaking the leaves for several weeks in a sealed bottle of vinegar to be used as a herby salad splash.  Young borage leaves are sometimes added to salads as an accent green.  People report a ‘cucumber’ flavour–not for me, but worth a try.

Feathery Dill–Spring’s Early Bounty

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When allowed to flower, dill faithfully returns to a garden year after year, propagated by the wind and the numerous seeds released from its yellow umbrella flowers.  Dill’s feathery green sprouts are among the first to emerge in early spring and when three to four inches tall, can be snipped for a wide variety of recipes.

Is dill really a “weed” as its full name, “dill weed”, suggests?  Dill can appear everywhere like a weed, but having it grow here and there in the garden can be a good thing.  Vegetables  love the company of other plants–some species are so helpful to each other that they are considered ‘friends’ or ‘companions’.  Dill is a  friend for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, and squash, attracting beneficial insects. The only vegetables that don’t particularly appreciate its company are carrots and tomatoes.  (My main source of knowledge on these matters  is The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith.)

When I snip dill, it is often to manage its growth and to get the best greens before the plant starts to flower. I often cut back the first signs of going to flower–a thickened stem with a green tassel on top–however by the end of the summer there will always be some tall dill plants with large yellow flowers, providing neighbouring plants with shade and  wind shelter.  In the picture below I have featured the tassel, that appears at the early stage of flowering.

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How Do I Use Dill  Leaves?  If I had answered this question a few years ago, I would have said “not at all”.  I didn’t buy fresh herbs and didn’t grow up with them. But cooks all over the world are familiar with its uses, pairing it with dairy concoctions, beets, spinach, cucumbers, potatoes, seafood and more.  Following are my favourite uses for fresh dill leaves:

  • homemade ranch dip
  • dill vinegar (fill a bottle with your favourite vinegar; add a few fronds of fresh dill, pop in the cork and let it sit for several months)
  • roasted beets and feta cheese salad
  • greek spinach pie 
  • dill pesto (my pestos often include a mix of herbs and non-traditional ingredients such as sunflower seeds and cashews)
  • pickled beets and pickled  cucumbers
  • potato salad
  • Freezing:  leftover dill greens can be frozen for use all winter long.

I did a  search and discovered that many WordPress bloggers appreciate dill.  Here are links to some of their recipes:

Spinach Börek:  https://thetrompqueencooks.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/spinach-borek/

Summer Salad: Cucumber with Dill and Sour Cream:  https://fotogfoodie.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/summer-salad-cucumber-with-dill-and-sour-cream/

Fresh Dill and Red Potato Salad:  http://aberdeenskitchen.com/2015/06/21/fresh-dill-and-red-potato-salad/

Sweet Potato Chips with Creamy Lemon and Dill Dip (vegan):   http://homespuncapers.com/2015/06/16/sweet-potato-chips-with-creamy-lemon-and-dill-dip/.        

How do you  use  fresh dill leaves?  Please add your favourite uses here and we will have a great collection of  ideas!

 

 

June 30, 2015 Vegetable Garden Gallery

The gallery doesn’t capture everything, but it shows a June garden that is a bit behind due to cool temperatures and a long rainy period.  This was the first year that I have provided steady cover for the kale, preventing destructive nibbling by flea beetles. Last year rabbits jumped the chicken wire fence to get the spinach so I tucked it away with the kale inside the enclosure that holds up the cover.  Another first was the use of landscaping plastic to warm up the soil for the summer and winter squashes which, given the unusually cool temperatures, will hopefully  be an advantage. I haven’t done a month end record like this before so I am excited to compare the pictures that I will take at the end of July!

My photo muse is the garden

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Muse.”

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The vegetable garden inspires me to pull out my iPhone and take a few pics to record its ever changing landscape. Two shots taken earlier today show wild milkweed that I have allowed to flourish behind the main garden. Why? to nourish and attract monarch butterflies, a threatened species. In the centre of the shot to the right you can see a sorrel plant. Besides being a perennial, one of those lovely plants that just appear in the spring, sorrel is a cross between a herb and a salad green. The leaves have a tangy lemony flavour, providing an accent to salads, soups, pestos, salad dressings, sauces and so on.

Here is another milkweed photo showing the newly formed pink bud clusters:
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