Playing with Food: Radish Mice

 

When around 4-years-old, my child heard the Marvin Gaye song “Everybody Plays the Fool” only my sweet young one sang:

“Everybody plays with food sometimes
There’s no exception to the rule, listen baby
It may be factual, it may be cruel, I ain’t lying
Everybody plays with food.”

It brought a smile to my face then and still does. The catchy version has become a family classic we continue to sing every once in while to this day.

Radish Mice

You may want to try singing it today if you decide to make a little radish mouse. These look great on a cheese plate or around a crudite platter. And, they are easy to make.

Start with a radish that has the root attached. The root is the mouse’s tail.

Trim the mouse’s under belly with a paring knife so it is steady and reserve the cut off slice. This can often be used as ears.  With the mouse I made, the piece was too large to be ears so I cut into another radish for two ear slices.

With the paring knife, make two deep slits into the mouse head where the ears will go. Slide the ears in. They should stay in place.

Use cloves or peppercorns for the eyes. It is easiest to use a toothpick to make a hole before trying to push the eyes in place.

That’s it. You did it. Like the song almost says,

Everybody plays with food sometimes.

Powdery Mildew and What to Do

Coffee in hand, I wandered the gardens very early this morning.

I looked for animal tracks near our beds, there were none.

I checked on the tiny pumpkin plants. They are still a little droopy but coming around. They will be fine.

Then I walked the pathways checking on the health and well being of the plants growing.  All was well but one.

A single zucchini plant has powdery mildew. While this is not surprising because of the wet weather, it needs to be tended to at once. I removed the diseased leaf and will connect with the bed’s gardener to let her know.

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This photo is from another garden, but shows what PM looks like. The plant at PMCG was not heavily infested. 

What is Powdery Mildew?

The name is appropriate as the leaves and stems develop a white, powdery fungal growth that is made up of asexual spores called conidia. Conidia are airborne, can travel long distances and can reproduce rapidly under favorable conditions such as the high humidity we have been experiencing. The length of time between infection and visible symptoms is 3 days to a week, which is not long at all.

PM typically begins on leaves that are tender, the undersides of a leaf and lower leaves.  In short time, the infected leaves develop white areas that some say look like a plant was dusted with flour.

In the future, if you are buying seed or plants, look for varieties with genetic resistance. Resistance doesn’t mean the plant won’t get fungal issues. Think of it like humans having a strong immune system. Those with a strong immune system are better able to fight off maladies.

 What to Do Now

If you are growing susceptible plants such as zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, pumpkins and other cucurbits. The same copper fungicide that we used for septoria leaf blight works for powdery mildew and should be applied every 7-10 days. Spray even the undersides of the leaves. Inspect your garden plants every time you are in the garden and be quick to get in touch if you think something is wrong.

The most critical time is when the plants begin fruiting. If you are growing the plants mentioned above, you may want to apply a fungicide or a home-made brew now.

Home-made PM Fungicide

Baking soda is an effective control but beware how much you use and what it is mixed with. Research at Cornell University found that baking soda mixed with horticultural oil “almost completely inhibited PM on heavily infected pumpkin foliage. Baking soda without spray oil was ineffective, and a 2% (wt./vol. of water) solution of baking soda damaged the leaves.” So follow the recipe. More is not better.

In one gallon of water, mix

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon oil (horticultural oil is thought best, but vegetable oil works, too)
  • 1 or 2 drops dishwashing liquid

Shake well and keep shaking between sprays. Apply to plants being diligent to spray leaves near the soil and the undersides of leaves.

Never apply any fungicides when the temperatures are above 80 degrees or in direct sun.

 

If you are curious about PM and want more information visit the Cornell University website: http://www.neon.cornell.edu/training/ppts/McGrathpmnotes.pdf

 

 

Tomato ‘Flowers’ on Quiche Nice Garden Party Idea

 

flower quichelight

It’s still a little too chilly for a garden party,  but the warm weather will be here soon.

I was making quiche for two lady friends today and decided to have a little fun with the tomatoes.

Before baking, I sliced grape tomatoes in half and arranged them like flower petals.

Looks pretty doesn’t it? And so easy to do.

 

 

Planting, Harvesting and Enjoying the Garden’s Bounty

DSC_3827_5298-2

Today was a true summer day…hot and humid.

But this didn’t slow down the young gardeners at Moreau Community Garden.  Last week we “planted” seeds in clear cups with napkins and a few cotton balls. This week we talked abut how the seeds grew. How the seed swells initially. How a single root forms and then more form. What the roots looked like…and how a seedlings first makes cotyledon (or seed) leaves before true leaves that resemble the adult plant leaf emerge.

bean

Once we talked about the seedlings, we planted them in bed #37 (in case you want to go and check it out) in two rows.  In a few weeks we will be picking beans from this bed.

After planting beans, we harvested nasturtium flowers, which are edible and very colorful. We also harvested scallions and sugar snap peas. A big hit! So sweet and tasty!

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But the best harvest experience of the day was definitely the early red potatoes.

Early potatoes get harvested about the time you see their flowers blooming. The flowers started last week, so this week we began to harvest.  The gardeners dug up around each plant and there were a fair number of potatoes sent back to camp headquarters where Miss Laurie is known for her great efforts preparing the garden produce for the gardeners. Kudos Laurie and a sincere Thank You.

I was told that the rapini sent back the first day was washed, cut into bite size pieces and served with ranch dressing. The whole harvest “every bite” was eaten by gardeners, some of whom never tried this green before.

Today the gardeners tried mint lemonade, and loved it.  It was cool and refreshing on such a hot day. Here’s how it is made:

1 sprig of peppermint per gallon of lemonade

Put a cup of water in a blender and add washed leaves of peppermint. Blend well on high. Then pour the liquid through a strainer to remove the big bits of peppermint leaves.  Add the strained peppermint liquid into pitcher of lemonade.

It’s good. If you haven’t tried it, ask one of the gardeners. They’ll tell you how refreshing it is.

INSECTS

There are many Japanese Beetles in the garden.  Since ours is an organic garden, our best defense is to knock the beetles off plants and into a bucket of soapy water.  The bucket and soap are in the shed. These beetles are voracious and skeletonizing leaves.

We spotted them on bean plants, rhubarb and zucchini.

Family Gardening Program- Week Six

This week there was a long list of things that needed to be done.

mulhcmoverChores for the older participants included moving wood chips into the flower beds, learning how to save the seeds of bachelor’s button flowers, harvesting and cleaning out the purple bean bed and weeding.

savingseedFortunately, the young gardeners took their chores to heart and completed the work in time to enjoy a special treat…watermelon lemonade.

This lemonade is so easy to make and there wasn’t a single gardener who didn’t like it.  You make it by pureeing two cups of watermelon in a blender and then pouring the watermelon puree through a strainer and into the pre-made lemonade. It is delicious and a very pretty pink.

KALE CHIPS

kaleharvestIn an effort to try new and different vegetable recipes, I researched how to make kale chips. And, I found an easy recipe.

The youngest gardeners, five and six-year-olds,  were responsible for harvesting all the kale, washing it and carrying it back to the kitchen where Miss Laurie baked the kale chips.  She reported that some liked them, others didn’t but that’s OK. They all had the opportunity to try something they hadn’t tried before.

Kale chips are easy to make.

Here’s how, preheat oven to 275 degrees. Remove the rib and then cut the washed kale into two inch pieces. Dry.

Spread kale on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and salt. Bake until crisp about 15 to 20 minutes.

Note: curly kale takes longer to crisp then lacinato kale. Kale chips have a nice crunch, like potato chips.

The young gardeners also harvested a huge and heavy zucchini!

bigzucchini The next two groups of gardeners were really busy. They harvested green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and moved more mulch.

Some gardeners drew pictures of what the garden meant to them.  I’m thinking we may do an art show in the Spring!

It was another great day in the garden for the participants in the Family Gardening Program.

 

Cool as a Cucumber

Pesto Making

I have a delightful problem.

I grow more basil, arugula, and parsley than I can eat.

Yummy problem.

So this morning, I made three kinds of pesto.

The first pesto I made was with arugula. I wash and trim the leaves. Set them to dry on a clean towel. Then I put a cup of olive oil in the blender with three big cloves of garlic and chopped it fine. Next I add several cups of arugula, a half cup of grated reggiano parmesan cheese, some salt and pureed in the blender.

You can add pine nuts or walnuts. My grandmother did. I don’t because family members have nut allergies.

If you want to  store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer, add a thin layer of olive oil over the top surface. That trick was one of grandma’s.
I have frozen mine in ice-cube trays to make it easy to use later on._DSC0895_1651

The next pesto was made by substituting basil for the arugula in the recipe above and I added a little pepper to the mix.

And finally, I made a garlic and parsley pesto. I used only parsley and  increased the number of garlic cloves to five. This pesto is very tasty with fish. I squeezed a lemon and added a tablespoon of lemon zest to this variation of the recipe.

What kind of pestos do you make?

Family Gardening Program – Week Two

There is a lot to do in the garden this time of year.

Today 80  young gardeners worked on: starting a new flower bed, mulching the broccoli so it doesn’t bolt,  sowing beans, weeding and water. When each group finished their working bee, we relaxed under the trees with a glass of ice, cold basil lemonade made from herbs growing in our garden.

The basil lemonade was a hit. One camper said the flavor was “distinctive,” another camper thought it tasted “like the garden” and most campers enjoyed it and asked for second and thirds.

Here is the Recipe:

One packed cup  of basil leaves washed well. Put leaves into the blender with a cup of water and puree on high. Once done, put this mixture through a strainer and into a large pticher of lemonade. Add the basil mix little by little until you reach the flavor you enjoy. It is that easy and very refreshing.

EARTH MOVERS

We could use some help with the dirt pile near the parking lot. The goal is to level it off so we can plant flowers. It was hard work for the kids. Anyone willing to help, please do. Your efforts are very much appreciated.

PLANTS

If anyone is dividing plants, please think of us. We are creating a pollinator friendly garden.  The new bed is in full sun and we hope to  grow yarrow, coneflower, Liatris, evening primrose, phlox, and asters. If you have any of these plants and can share, they would be greatly appreciated. Thank you to all my generous gardening friends.

MAKING A BIRD BATH

At noon today adult gardeners made a concrete bird bath from a leaf.

Gna LeClair lead this project and started by making a sand dome on a sheet of plywood. This forms the bird bath. Plastic was spread over the dome and a hosta leaf was put face down on top.

Gina LeClair lead this project and started by making a sand dome on a sheet of plywood. This forms the  basin of the bird bath.
Plastic was spread over the dome and a hosta leaf was put face down on top.

Then you being to add the concrete on top of the host leaf.

Then you  adda moth textured concrete – not the kind with aggregate – on top of the hosta leaf.

Keep going until the leaf is completely covered.

Keep going until the leaf is completely covered. And then let it dry for at least 48 hours.

These baths look charming in a garden and attract butterflies and insect-eating birds.   I will take a photo of the finished project next week.

Hope to see you in the garden.  And thank you for contributing to the success of the garden.

Natalie, Master Gardener and Moreau Community Garden’s Garden  Coach

 

Garlic Scape Pesto

While working in the garden I remembered that it’s time to harvest the garlic scapes.

Why do we harvest garlic scape? So the plant puts it energy into make bigger bulbs and not seed heads.

The scales are tasty…like a mild garlic. Everything tastes better with garlic, right?

I made a pesto that I can use on meat or fish, as a dip for crudités, on pasta, or I can make a butter of garlic scapes, thyme with a little lemon to slather on toasted bread and add to other recipes.

Here’s how I make pesto. Harvest and wash a dozen scapes before they flower. Chop into manageable lengths and add them to a food processor along a quarter cup pistachios, a quarter cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and about the same amount of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Process until smooth and add salt and pepper to taste.

To make the butter, I let butter soften to room temperature and add the finely chopped garlic scapes and thyme. Squeeze half a lemon into the mix and let it harden in the refrigerator. I use a glass container with a lid. When I want a garlicky flavor on whatever I am preparing…I scoop a small portion out.

Happy eating from the garden. Don’t you love this time of year?

On the Move Lunch Idea

MasonjarsaladSalad in a Mason jar?

When I googled “portable lunch no sandwiches,” this adorable idea came up.

The salad lasts for five days in the refrigerator, the dressing is on the bottom – first layer – so it is not soggy until you shake it up and it is pretty to look at. Add to that my own requirements for something easy to bring on a kayak and healthy, and this is a winner.

I made mine with red onion, carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, basil leaves and feta. You can add chicken, beans, anything you like. The key is to put the dressing in the bottom of the jar and then add the veggies least likely to absorb the dressing. In my case this was the onion, carrot and tomatoes.

I love the idea of prepping the salad once on a Sunday and then having it available in the refrigerator ready to go for the rest of the week. This could become a regular thing.

There are lots and lots of recipe ideas online. Taco salads, Greek salads, etc. Try http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/06/mason-jar-salads_n_5452313.html as a start.

Pretty soon I will be packing mine with veggies all grown in the garden!