Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's in Your Garden?

Well I might be the last blogger on earth to discover the awesomeness of Picasa, but better late than never. Seriously, this might solve my problem of absolutely dreading uploading tons of pics for a blog post, because now I can just throw them all into a collage. So . . . that means that I might get around to the rest of those Italy posts, ha.

About a month ago, we (okay, I) decided that I wanted a vegetable garden. And like most of my projects, when I get an idea in my head I have to do it five minutes ago. I figured it would be simple, just dig up the ground, mix in some topsoil and throw in some plants, right? Wrong. Turns out that the first six inches of our Western Pennsylvania soil was solid clay, and below that was solid rock. Frank dug up as much as he could and then . . .. it rained. It rained for probably a solid two weeks. And then we had a rectangular pool of six inches of water. We changed route, decided that the garden needed to be raised. So imagine us bailing out buckets of rainwater from a giant mud pit. Then taking all the HUGE clumps of clay and grass that Frank had broken his back to dig out, and throwing them back in the pit to start over. We were coated in mud and crawling with worms. Oh the worms.

We went to Lowes and bought some boards and managed to create a 12' x 6' frame. We were seriously impressed with ourselves. About 40 bags of manure, top soil, and peat moss later, we had our garden. I seriously doubted that anything would grow, considering the quality of the soil underneath the new stuff we added. But . . . check it out:

Things are growing! We have tomatoes, peppers, beans and three varieties of lettuce growing. The lettuce and some strawberries are the only things that are ready to eat so far, but everything else is growing so well. (There's also a little nest of baby birds built under our deck. I'm trying to photograph them ever few days as they grow.)

Everything about summer makes me happy, but I eat so well when I have access to fresh vegetables and herbs. I go out in the morning and snip off a few leaves of mint and mix it in my water for the day. Yesterday I made an omelet and mixed in some farmers' market tomatoes and a fistful of my own basil and cilantro. Amazing.

Speaking of farmers' markets, I've become a bit obsessed. I have two markets that I try to hit each week and neither of them are that close to where i live. There are several that are closer, but they aren't as big and don't have as much to offer. My favorite things to get are strawberries (farm strawberries taste nothing like grocery store ones. The tinier they are, the sweeter) and snap peas, which I eat raw like candy.  Here's todays lunch:

Veggie burger (spicy black bean) with salsa and sour cream, snap peas, and strawberries. Now if I could only eliminate the pizza and beer nights, my diet would totally be in check.

One more thing. I know I'm like, the last person to jump on this bandwagon, but I made kale chips finally. I was a little intimidated because the last and only time I tried kale, i burnt it and it was disgusting. The recipe is easy, and you can find variations of it all over the internet, but what I did was wash and dry the kale, cut the tough inner stem away, and rip it up into bite-size bits (think the size of a potato chip). Then I tossed the kale in about a tablespoon of olive oil (maybe a little more . . . ) and some seasoned salt. I spread it out on a pizza pan (I figured the holes in the bottom of the pan would help air circulate and dry out the kale) and baked it at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (check it around 10 to make sure it doesn't burn). The result is totally totally crispy, oily and salty but you feel less guilt because you're eating leafy greens. I will be doing this every week!

What's your favorite summer produce? Share your recipes with me!

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