Taking Summer Stock – What Worked? What Didn’t?

I love and hate the end of the summer.

I hate that it has ended.  I love that I can spend quiet hours cleaning up, organizing and getting ready for the next garden.

And I love some of my online gardening friends for their insights, their humor and their ideas.

Check out this post from Chrystal.  Gardener extraordinaire, keeper of bee hives

Bees making honey in Chrystal's garden.

Bee hives enjoying Kale Grower’s garden

and sharer of good advice, good recipes and good humor, she gardens a bit north of me (British Columbia) and catalogs the good and the bad from her 2015 garden!

And shares some wonderful pictures in the process.

Read up and learn how Chrystal copes aphids (suggested she get some lacewings which devour lots of irritating bugs).

Find out how her tomatoes grew (like mine, they didn’t) and check out what she made with her lovely red raspberries.

Reading about her adventures helped me with my end of gardening season blues.  Isn’t it nice to know we have company in our back yards?

Happy planning for 2016!

Veggie Recipes for End of Summer

I promised to share two zucchini recipes – one for chips – delicious – and one for zucchini fritters.  The chips recipe is below — a tasty way to use up the zucchini you have on your kitchen counter.

Zuke fritters will be posted this week but I wanted to share some ideas for using eggplant, as well since I am experiencing an abundance of beautiful white and purple globes.

Eggplant, peppers and tomatoes

End of summer eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.

I went looking for recipes for using even more eggplant (having already made eggplant parmigian, roasted baby eggplant and baba ghanouj) and found some truly wonderful and healthy recipes from the New York Times Cooking team.

I am going to try Israeli Couscous, Eggplant and Tomato Gratin (using quinoa instead of couscous) today.  Oh, and I will be making my own mayonnaise, going forward. Now for the promised Zuke Chips recipe!

Zucchini Chips
Zucchini, sliced in thin rounds, make chips that taste better than any you can buy and are good for you.  And, the recipe is simple!

Zucchini chips baked

Zuke chips are crispy, salty and tasty!

Preheat the oven to 235 degrees (that’s not a typo).

Slice 2 zucchini into super thin rounds using a mandolin or food processor.

Put parchment paper or silicone mats on cookie sheets.

Put a single layer of zucchini rounds on each cookie sheet then, using a basting

Use a basting brush to spread the oil.

Basting is better than drizzling for even spread of oil.

brush, brush each chip lightly with olive oil.

Sprinkle the chips with salt or, as I do, you can use a mixture of brewer’s yeast and salt.

Put the cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 2 to 3 hours, checking them during the last hour as some chips will finish faster than others. Combine the fully baked chips on 1 sheet, remove them from the oven & let the other chips crisp up.

Dehydrated zuke chips

Zuke chips from the dehydrator are not as good.

FYI – I tried making these in my dehydrator and was not too impressed with the taste or the crispness.

The chips looked a bit prettier but they were also chewy, not crispy. And the flavor was nowhere near as buttery or rich as the chips I baked in the oven.

Later this week week, I promise I will post my zucchini fritters and avocado/lemon dipping sauce.

Enjoy your end of summer bounty and please, share your recipes, too!

Healthy Mushroom Burger You Will Love

Organic Italian produce

Zucchetta, peppers and onions from my garden.

End of summer and I still have tons of healthy, tasty Sicilian zucchetta, sweet Italian red peppers and my sweet Italian red onions -detect a theme?  Italian is what happens when you marry one and cook for him for 30+ years!

Mushroom burger

Healthy, tasty mushroom burgers served with avocado dip.

So I am in the kitchen, cooking up a storm.  Here are my two of my favorite recipes – tasty and healthy – for this end of season bounty Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Mushroom Burgers
I live in mushroom country – near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania so I have easy access to all kinds of mushrooms at very reasonable prices.  My husband’s a diabetic with serious insulin issues that made us change everything about the way we eat.

This recipe is one of results and it’s one of his favorites and one of mine.  The base was from a 2010 Bon Appetit recipe but I made some changes in ingredients and cooking method.

2 T butter or ghee
2 T olive oil
1½ lb sliced cremini mushrooms
2 sliced Portabellas
2 cloves minced garlic
1 small red onion diced
2 eggs – beaten
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
2 T chopped basil
2 T chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 c almond flour
½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Melt butter or ghee with olive oil in deep pan over medium-high heat.
Add all mushrooms and sauté until crisp – about 14 minutes.  Stir often.
While mushrooms cook, preheat the griddle to medium heat.
Add garlic to mushrooms, stir for 1 minute.  Transfer mix to food processor.
Add eggs, parmesan, herbs, almond flour, salt and pepper to processor and pulse until mushrooms are chopped – medium coarse.
Put English muffin rings on griddle and do a quick spray with olive or coconut oil.
Scoop mushroom mix up with your hands and place inside each ring, filling each ring and patting mix down to level the mix off.
Grill for 7 or 8 minutes on one side, flip with the rings and cook for 7 to 8 minutes on the other side.  If the centers of the burgers still seem a little soft, flip again and cook for another 5 minutes.

If you want to have a melted cheese center, put half the mix in the English muffin ring, place shredded cheese on top then put the rest of the mushroom mix over top of the cheese and pat to level inside the ring.

I’ve already posted a recipe for Zucchini Crusted Pizza that is DELICIOUS!  Next time, I will share my recipes for Zucchini Fritters and Zucchini Chips – delicious!

Saturday Night at the Strathcona Community Garden | kalegrower

Gardening inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes but here’s one I hadn’t thought of…a community garden.

Community gardens are gifts.

Gardening is good for body and soul.

I know they are big in England and there are some here in the United States but I’ve never seen one, visited one or lived near one.

Blogger Chrystal’s post on the Strathcona Community Garden shows how peaceful and beautiful these places can be.

Located in Vancouver, British Columbia, this verdant community garden opened my eyes to the joys of so-called “city farming” — places to grow food and friendships.

Do you participate in a community garden?  Live near one?  Please share your thoughts on this growing trend of shared space and shared gardens..

Saturday Night at the Strathcona Community Garden | kalegrower.

European Hornets Persist in My Garden

European hornet in garden.

European hornets are big, bold but willing to share space.

In the interest of knowing my enemy…better….I wanted to find out where European hornets nest.

Penn State’s extension office gave me the full boat on these very big  hornets who, when challenged, can be pretty darned aggressive.

Apparently, they create nests above ground, often in abandoned trees.  I first saw these hornets in my garden 3 years ago when my figs outdid themselves and the hornets have since moved in but I don’t know where.

I do know that they love my blueberry patch – hence the Tyvex suits on my sister and I as we go blueberry picking.  The colanders are just for show!

Blueberry picking around hornets

Meg and I do battle with hornets for blueberries.

Apparently, our choice of attire was a fortunate one. These hornets don’t like black or dark clothing and will warn you off by butting you.  If you don’t get the message, they will bite to defend their nest but, for all their size, European hornets are considered “docile.”

That said, I still wear Tyvex — now when I try to pick blackberries because that’s where the hornets are in August.  Unfortunately, the hornets are still sharing space with the Japanese beetles that are still hanging on, chewing through my plants and eating only the ripe berries, of course!

Anyway, if you see any of these big boys in your garden, back away slowly. Don’t arm wave or bat at them.  They just want you to go away but if you don’t, if you appear to be a threat, remember that European hornets are big; they will bite with malice aforethought and they can sting 8 or 9 times.

Who says gardening is a quiet past time?  It’s always an adventure in my backyard and I’ll bet it is in yours, too.




Water Saving Tips From EarthEasy

I tend to save water all year round and as much as possible.

But the heat waves of July and August and the temperatures in the high 90’s just remind us all that water conservation should be an integral part of our gardening regimen and, frankly, our lives.

This month, my favorite newsletter includes an article that is just packed with water saving tips and I wanted to share it with you.

Most gardeners know how to water during a hot spell or a drought — soaker hoses, gray water and conservatively.  But some of the products Eartheasy recommends, especially the ones for cutting down the gallons of water we literally flush away, were new to me and are now on my shopping list.  I want

Save water by flushing less.

Practically plugs in & reduces water waste.

to try the conversion kit installed in the toilet tank, which saves thousands of gallons of water a year.

Eartheasy’s newsletter is one of my favorites for a whole lot of reasons but it’s articles like this one that ensure I will keep opening and reading their monthly online tips.

Hope you enjoy this article and Eartheasy’s newsletter as much as I do!  And hope you stay cool during the dog days.

Japanese Beetles Decimating My Plants

It must be July.

This is the month when the Japanese Beetles swarm in, over and under all of my plants and make veritable skeletons where once there was beautiful green.

Japanese Beetles in garden

Japanese beetles turned this cabbage into a skeleton.

My Chinese cabbage fell to the Japanese beetles but I am determined NOT to lose the battle over my green beans and my blackberry bushes.

Japanese beetles chew green bean leaves.

Japanese beetles like green bean leaves a lot.

Unfortunately, because the beetles are so bad this year, I have resorted to using my apple tree as a distraction.

Japanese Beetles like apple tree leaves.

Japanese beetles swarming my apple tree.

And the Japanese beetles are attacking with a vengeance.  The leaves are being eaten on every branch.  I hate using the tree to attract the beetles but, as an organic gardener, I have to or I wouldn’t have a prayer of holding the line in my garden.

So, how do I kill the ones that make it into the garden and chew through leaves of just about any plant?  Well, it isn’t pretty but my method works and it is organic.

Every morning and every evening, I fill a small container with dishwater, grab my big spoon and head out to the garden.  I spend about 25 minutes smacking beetles into the bucket.

Drown Japanese beetles

Drowning Japanese beetles is an organic method of control.

When I’m done, I usually have between 100 and 150 beetles floating in the water.

Okay is sounds gross and the resulting “bucket of beetles” looks gross but it works.  And there is a perverse satisfaction in slapping them into the water, knowing their destructive activities are over.

So, the battle continues and I have good and bad days relative to control but I don’t spray; I don’t give up and I do, eventually beat them back.

Sunflowers are hearty and beautiful.

Volunteer sunflowers by my office door.

And when I am feeling outnumbered or a bit down, I just look out my office door at  one of the hundred or more volunteer sunflowers that are in my garden and yard and smile.

And to make you smile, I am sharing a picture of my sister Meg, now known as Commander Colander Head, and I heading out to the blueberry patch to do battle with the vicious and varied invaders we call hornets. This year I’ve got Bald-faced and European hornets and even hornets that look like bumblebees. And of course, there are honey bees, yellow jackets and genuine bumblebees.

So, when we go out to pick, we “suit up” – Tyvex suits are tucked into socks.  Muck shoes are worn and, if it’s really warm, nitrile gloves.

Blueberry picking around hornets

Meg and I do battle with hornets for blueberries.

The protective gear really does make it safer to pick.  And starting just as the sun cracks over the horizon also helps.

I’ve gotten about 85 quarts of blueberries this year and not one bite or one “fatality”, either human or bee!