First of the Garden Produce

Would you believe that we had fresh kale and lettuce from the garden already?!

That’s right – on March 31 – which is officially the earliest we have ever eaten from the garden – we had our first salad.

lettuceI was going to publish this yesterday – but then I realized that some of you might think it was a hoax because of April Fool’s Day.

But believe me- this is no joke.

So how did we get to a harvest so quickly when this is the time most people are just getting things planted?

Remember back last fall when I happened to mention in a post that Buddy and I transplanted some late cabbage, broccoli, kale and lettuce into a thrown together cold frame of cement blocks and old windows?

broccoliWe had hoped to harvest fresh veggies into the winter – but that didn’t work so well. Everything stopped growing, some even looked dead, so I called the experiment a mistake and forgot about it.

But then the weather warmed up this spring and some of those plants perked right up and started to grow!

it was a miracle!

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And now, for the first time ever – instead of playing catch up with my Amish neighbors –  I’m ahead of them!

Never mind that I had to start last October and it was kind of an accident.

Hey – I win is a win!

And fresh veggies the last day of March is most definitively a win!

Fall Garden

Normally at this time of year I’m ready to be done with the garden.

Ready to pick the pumpkins and winter squash – then ignore it’s very existence until January when the gardening bug hits me again.

pumpkinsSometimes I even pray for a frost so it will go away.

But not this year.

This year I planted more.

Crazy, right?

I had a few empty places where a crop had finished – so I decided to try some fall plantings of cool weather crops. Things like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.

purple cabbageIn the spring I start my cold weather crops inside and transplant them when the weather is right. For these fall crops I planted my seeds directly in the ground.

Germination was very spotty. It could have been too hot, or too much rain, or maybe Buddy and I didn’t prepare the soil quite as well as we should have for these much smaller seeds.

Whatever the reason – I figured it was worth the experiment! We already had the seeds and the ground was just sitting there. Anything that grew was a bonus.

kaleLike my first homegrown kale.

Happy, happy, happy day!

I wonder just how long we can stretch this fresh food season?

Garden Bounty

I love cooking in the late summer!

Every meal starts with a quick trip to the garden to see what’s ripe – and then my creative juices get started!

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Maybe we should start with spaghetti squash – tossed in butter and garlic and Parmesan cheese.

Or some fresh green beans steamed till just tender with a pat of butter melting on the top.

Or maybe a salad with some beautiful red ripe tomatoes and fresh basil and a touch of balsamic vinegar.

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There’s even been a ripe watermelon or two – and one teeny tiny cantaloupe that ended up being one of the sweetest and best we’ve had all summer! Too bad there was only one.

Of course there will be poppers with our favorite Tam jalapenos.  And fresh sweet peppers to dip in homemade ranch dressing.

But everybody’s favorite is the king of the garden –

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Sweet corn.

Picked and cooked and on a plate steaming hot within an hour.

DSC_0399Then slathered with melted butter and salt and enjoyed.

In abundance.

An all you can eat corn buffet.

It’s late summer in Iowa.

And we’re eating good!

Corn-a-Thon

It all started with an innocent question.

My husband called at lunch – as he always does – and as we were chatting about the mornings events  he mentioned that one of his buddies from work had some extra sweet corn.  Did I want some?

Of course I wanted some! Our first picking had been good – we enjoyed all the corn we could eat and had about 30 “fat” quarts in the freezer – but our second planting was stunted from the drought and our third planting was weeks away.

So we gathered some buckets and boxes and set the boys in to  meet their dad after work and pick us some corn.

I wasn’t expecting a lot – the guy told Jan they had been picking all week – but I was hoping for an all-you-can corn fest for supper and a few more bags in the freezer.

They brought home a Suburban full!

sweet corn

Boxes and boxes and boxes of sweet corn. Jan said they barely made a dent in the field.

They guys started husking right away and I got some water boiling.

We took a break for some supper – but by 6:30 we were back at it!

The next few hours are a blur.

Put corn in. Set the timer. Move the cooled corn to the table. Get fresh water. Cut some corn. Bag some corn. Clean some corn.Run out to grab more corn. Husk a few ears. Run in and take the corn out. Put corn in. Set the timer…

By 8:30 it was getting dark but the guys were still husking. They moved operations to the work shop. The table was covered with cooked ears but I sent Angel Girl out to help them finish.

Corn

By 9:30 the husking was finally done and all hands moved inside to help cut. My table was full of cooked ears, one counter was full of raw ears, and the other counter was covered with full freezer bags.

By 10:30 all four kids were cutting corn as fast as they could and listening to the 2nd Adventures in Odyssey CD. My feet stuck the floor in the kitchen from all the corn juice splattered.

By 11:30 the last of the corn went in to cook and the freezer was so full that I couldn’t find room for more.

By 12:30 the last ear was cut and the last of the freezer bags filled. The kids started cleaning themselves up and heading to bed while I looked at the disaster that once was my kitchen.

By 1:30 AM I had washed the dishes, scrubbed the counters and table, and was scrubbing my floor.

Finally tally – 58 fat quarts (a quart bag stuffed as full as it can be – usually between 5-6 cups), 4 exhausted kiddos, one trashed kitchen, and one wiped-out mom who kept shaking her head and saying, “What was I thinking?”

I know what I was thinking :

“Boy am I glad the kids are home to help!”

“Corn in the freezer is like gold in the bank!”

“This is sure gonna taste good come winter!”

“What a gift – all this corn for free! And I didn’t have to plant it, weed it, water it or try to keep the coons out!” 🙂

Fresh Picked

I love this season of the year – when my meals are planned around what I pick fresh from the garden.

Corn on the cob – all you can eat. Green beans – lightly steamed and dripping with butter. Summer squash in every form imaginable. And what about the tomatoes!

TomatosIs there anything as wonderful as a fresh, vine-ripened tomato?

Unless it’s something made from that fresh, vine-ripened tomato! Something like BLT’s, fresh salsa, bruschetta, or our favorite – pasta with fresh tomatoes.


Just peel 8 medium tomatoes. Chop, seed and drain.

Combine 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 clove of garlic (crushed), 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley chopped, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 of a green pepper (chopped) and 16 black olives, sliced.

Add tomatoes and set aside at room temperature.

Cook 8 ounces of pasta according to directions. Drain and place in serving bowl. Add tomato mixture and toss. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Yum!

We’re still in the honeymoon stage with tomatoes- enjoying all we can eat fresh – but don’t have quite enough yet to can.

WatermelonThen there’s my pride and joy – my watermelons – both of them.

The melons didn’t like the heat and drought of July. But thanks to the boys faithful watering, we saved one watermelon plant with 2 watermelons on it.

I was a little scared to pick the big one – but my friend Martha just gave it a thunk and proclaimed it done.

She was right – it was perfect!

I may just have to call her to come and thunk the next one in a few weeks. 🙂

So what’s on tonight’s menu?

All you can eat fresh corn on the cob (Pedro holds the record with 6 ears at one meal) and chicken wraps (with roasted yellow squash, green peppers, onions and garlic for the more adventurous eaters!)

Lip-smacking goodness!