Tag Archives: fall garden

Late fall update

In the (hoop) house: Still producing – one cherry tomato, one cucumber, several peppers, and green beans. Ready to eat – bok choi, onions, leeks, and KALE. Up and growing nicely – lettuce, cabbage, brussels sprouts, more leeks, broccoli, cilantro, Swiss chard, turnips, rutabagas and garlic.

New fireplaceNew fireplace: After living for 15 years with a mantel but no fireplace*, we finally made a decision and purchased (online) a ventless gas fireplace with mantel. Mike stained it in September, we put it in position in October, and connected the gas in November. We still need to finish the wall opening and put in some slate or tile beneath the surround. *The Universalist Fellowship, which owned our house in the 1970’s, removed the original gas fireplace. The next owners got so far as to buy an old mantel, but never completed their project.

Pickles, salsa, chutney: Throughout the fall I’ve been pickling and canning stuff, mostly involving peppers. Green sauce/salsa, pepper relish, Mexican escabeche, and chutney.

grating lemongrassLemongrass harvest: We finally got a frost last week, so we had to bring in all the houseplants, and my three big pots of lemongrass. Every year I’d tell myself that I was going to do something with the lemongrass, and this year I finally did. I cut the stalk about 3″ from the soil, then removed the leaves so all I had was the stalk. I washed and cut it into 4″ pieces and froze them in a ziplock bag. To use them in cooking I simply take out a stalk and grate it with my microplane grater, or throw a stalk or two into a soup. Here are links to previous posts that pertain to lemongrass: Vietnamese Penicillin, Viet FeastThai Seafood Hotpot, and Grass of Lemon

Oklahoma road trips: Since September Mike and I have done three Oklahoma weekend rambles.

  • First to Roman Nose State Park near Watonga, OK, where we stayed at the very nice, newly remodeled lodge. Saturday we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the patio with two pots of French press coffee. The night before we’d stopped at Eischen’s Bar  in Okarche – the oldest bar in Oklahoma – for fried chicken and fried okra. Saturday afternoon we took back roads on the way home and I was amazed at the number of wind generators that had been put up.

Eischen's bar in Okarche, OK Roman Nose Lodge patio  Wind generator, south of Weatherford, OK

  • Second on our list was Lake Murray in southern Oklahoma. Beautiful setting, but an incredibly dumpy lodge. I felt like I’d fallen into a time warp and emerged in 1965. We did have a fabulous catfish dinner on the banks of the Washita River at McGehee’s near Marietta. Thank goodness they have big billboards directing you to the restaurant, else we’d never have found it.
  • Third on the list is the town of Woodward, where I went to attend a family wedding (at the old theater), and then Mike and I returned two weeks later to pick up some antique chairs I’d bought. Once again, lots more wind farms going up, and we met Mike’s cousins for a great lunch at Waggs Bar-B-Q. We weren’t there long enough to visit Alabaster Caverns, but that is definitely worth doing if you’re in the area.

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What’s shakin’?

Yes, it’s been a while since I last posted. I had this little thing called a dissertation to write…

USGS map

USGS map showing where the earthquake was felt

If you live in the USA you may have heard about (or felt) the earthquakes we’ve been having. All the the strongest ones (4.7, 5.6, 4.7) occurred at night while I was sitting in my big leather easy chair. I was actually on the phone with Aric when the 5.6 record-breaker shaker hit. Last night we had a 4.7 while most of the state was under a tornado watch! Oh, and yeah, OKC was dealing with flash flooding at the same time. Crazy. We’ve had a record-breaking year in many categories. We lived in California for 8 years and I never felt any as strong as the 5.6 and certainly not as many clustered so close together.

The map above is the product of a form on the USGS earthquake web site page Did You Feel It?After I feel a quake I immediately go this page and fill out the form (yeah, I know I’m a geek). Kate said she felt the 5.6 in St. Louis. I saw on the interweb that people in Wisconsin also felt it.

Chinese cabbageMike has put the plastic on the hoop houses and things are looking fine. We have lettuce, arugula, red mustard, and cilantro to eat, and I can start harvesting Asian greens at any time. And in the hoop houses we still have peppers (lordy, do we have peppers!). Speaking of which, I found a great way to roast and peel chilis. I just put them in my convection toaster oven on high for about 8 to 10 minutes, then wrap them in a dishtowel for a minute or two. They are easier to peel and less messy than roasting them on the grill or over a gas flame, and you don’t have to worry about the smoke alarm going off. You don’t get the fire-roasted flavor of course, but it sure is convenient.Pepper abundance Other veggies started under the hoops: spinach, chard, leeks, kale, lettuce, and carrots. All but the chard and spinach are from saved seed! Still left to harvest are peppers and sweet potatoes.

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Glorious fall

Herb bed in OctoberOctober is definitely the best month in Oklahoma. On days like today you can imagine you’re on the California central coast (without any fog). And my fall garden is making me so happy! Green beans for pickin’, baby greens for salads (bok choi, lettuce, arugula), and of course the eggplant, peppers, mustard, and basil are still going strong.

I’ve recently become addicted to Korean TV dramas* (Damn you, Hulu! But I’m “serially” OCD, so this too shall pass), which has inspired me to learn how to make kimchi. Kimchi is basically spicy hot garlicky pickled/fermented vegetables. The American equivalent would be what we southerners call chow-chow. I’m not hung up on doing anything traditional or “authentic,” so for my first attempt I went with what had in the crisper and in the garden. (And this article in Wikipedia validates my very practical approach.) We ate some of it this Sunday with bbq ribs and rice, then I left it out a day to ferment some, and yesterday I put it in the refrigerator. For directions and inspiration I used these recipes:

So my first attempt went as follows:

Chop vegetable and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Let sit for 2 hours in a large bowl and stir occasionally.

  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 large squash (White Bush Lebanese?)
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 2 green chilis (Anaheim)

Rinse the veggies off well and mix with ingredients below, processed into a paste:

  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 red chilis (fresh, Anaheim, with seeds removed)
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar

Put all this in a glass or ceramic bowl or refrigerator dish, and cover. Some recipes tell you to leave it out to ferment, other say to put it in the fridge. I guess it depends on the style you prefer and how much you like stinky stuff smelling up your house. So what to do with your kimchi, other than a condiment or side dish? Well, look here.

*Check out Dramabeans if you want to know what K-drama and K-pop is all about.

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Chili time

The eggplant, peppers, and most of the tomatoes are out of the garden now. We left three tomato plants in and will pull them out when the first frost is forecasted. We have good luck in getting the green tomatoes to ripen this way: pull up the whole plant, or large stems with tomatoes still on them and hang them upside down in your basement. Check every day for ripe or almost ripe tomatoes. Last year we had fresh tomatoes into January by doing this.

poblano and serrano peppersAs you can see from the photo, we haven’t processed all of our peppers yet. I’ve made green chili stew, chili rellenos, and added chilis to about everything I can think of. Yesterday I dried some poblanos in the dehyrdator (center of photo). I ground some  of the dried red ones in my spice mill (an old coffee grinder). That’s what I’ll do to all the small green poblanos too. The larger ones I’ll char, rinse, ziplock, and put in the freezer.

The serranos I sliced and made a “refrigerator pickle.” I heated the leftover pickle juice (vinegar) and added a teaspoon of salt, mustard seeds, garlic, and a bay leaf, then tossed the sliced peppers in, heated to a boil, and put back into the jar and then into the refrigerator.

Tomorrow I’ll pick the last crop of green beans, pull the plants out, and transplant leeks, bok choi and mustard greens. The leeks and bok choi came from seed I saved this summer. The mustard is a different variety from what I usually plant – a red leafed type. Spinach and lettuce are now coming up, so I need to put some chicken wire over the beds to keep the neighborhood cats from scratching everything up.

Hey, check out Aric’s new brew blog. Some mothers want their sons to become doctors or lawyers. How boring!

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Late September

Autumn is definitely my favorite season – and what’s not to love? The weather has cooled so you can stand to be outside, you suddenly feel like cooking again, the tomatoes have recovered, and you’ve got eggplant, peppers, basil

Juliet tomato

Juliet tomato

and all your herbs goin’ crazy. We’re still getting the yellow tomatoes, but I’m more impressed by the Juliet tomato, which is a Roma type that bears clusters of 1.5  inch oval fruit. The one plant I bought has been very productive. I’ll definitely look for it next year at the farmer’s market.

Because I let some of my spring greens reseed I even have bok choi, mustard, and arugula to harvest now. Currently this is what I’m picking: tomatoes, bell, poblano, and serrano peppers, eggplant, tomatillo, okra, mustard, arugula, basil, bok choi, Italian parsley, four types of basil, and green beans (yes, I’m so excited about finally getting some green beans!).  The Delicata has little squashes on it, so I’m hopeful that they will mature before we get a frost.

I’ve also started my winter garden and here is what is up so far: beets, carrots, rutabaga, cilantro, fennel, arugula, bok choi, radish, turnip, and volunteer garlic. I have so much volunteer and second-year garlic that I’ve decided I don’t need to plant any more. I am watering all the seedlings with chicken manure tea so that they’ll get a strong start.

Because pepper plants are loaded down, I’ve been looking for some new things

One of the many poblanos that are ready to pick

One of the many poblanos that are ready to pick

to do with poblanos. They’re always good just sliced up, fried on the griddle, and used in sandwiches, eggs, and on salads.

Oh BTW, Matt has a new blog about living and teaching in Vladivostok.

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Cucumber madness

Mike and I are back from our California road trip vacation, which was

View from our driftwood shelter on Molera State Beach, CA

View from our driftwood shelter on Molera State Beach, CA

wonderful (see Travel Photos). Luckily while we were gone the weather in Oklahoma was cooler and moister than usual, so our garden is in pretty good shape. We’ve already done a lot of weeding and harvesting of sunflower seeds, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, basil and oregano. Mike dried about 3 quarts of tomatoes yesterday in our dehydrator. We also need to clean up our garlic heads now that they’ve cured, and eat a lot of potatoes before they spoil.

So now it’s August, when backyard gardeners in the Mid-South  are flooded with produce, and at the same time need to start planting their fall garden.  This is a tricky proposition, as it could be too hot (and too dry or too wet) to get good germination on some seeds. There are also grasshoppers to contend with, and they can wipe out a bed of seedlings in one morning. I’m going to see if I can get a crop of Delicata squash before the first fall frost for our area – which could occur in the middle of October, or wait until the middle of December! I may also try some Contender bush beans and some fennel (I saved my seed). I will probably wait a week or two before planting bok choi and our winter greens.

hiddencukeWhen we got home Sunday Beca proudly showed us the large cucumber she had picked earlier in the morning. The next day Mike found four more hiding in the vines! Obviously it’s time to post some simple cucumber salad/relish/snacks for the extended Nelson clan.

Marinated cukes #1: A dish my maternal grandmother, raised in southern Oklahoma, served every day in the summer, along with sliced cantaloupe or watermelon. Mix all the ingredients together and set in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. The longer they set, the more “pickled” they become, but I like them pretty crisp and crunchy.

  • Several peeled and (round) sliced cucumbers
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 thinly sliced onion (white, yellow, or red)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • a couple of ice cubes

Marinated cukes #2: These are similar to the previous recipe, but more like a bread-and-butter (sweet-sour) pickle. I think I may be the only one in our immediate family who likes bread-and-butter pickles?

  • Several peeled and (round) sliced cucumbers
  • 1 thinly sliced onion (white, yellow, or red)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dill seed
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed
  • 1/4 tsp parsley seed
  • a couple of ice cubes

Marinated cukes #3: This is a favorite of Mike and the kids.

  • Several peeled and (round) sliced cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar (you can substitute cider vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Marinated cukes #4: Spicier and good with fresh spring rolls.

  • Several peeled and sliced cucumbers
  • 1 thinly sliced onion (white or yellow)
  • 1/4 cup rice or cider vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1  to 2 tsp fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 tsp freshly grated or minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1  tsp garlic-chili paste or siracha hot sauce
  • Several minced leaves of Thai basil, cilantro, or mint

And of course cucumbers are excellent just sliced paper thin and placed in sandwiches.

Bonus recipes: As I was typing this out I thought about the watermelon sitting in our refrigerator. The rind of a watermelon is sort of like a cucumber, right? So couldn’t you make a fresh pickle or something out of it? HA! Here is a recipe from the Tuscon CSA! If you don’t have pomegranate syrup I bet you could substitute some other fruit juice/syrup/concentrate. And here is a watermelon rind relish recipe that would go great with anything grilled, curries, or on a sandwich. An interesting note – watermelon rind is a good source of citrulline, and you may recall hearing that watermelon is a “natural viagra.”

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