Asparagus Season is Finally Here

Asparagus Season is Finally Here

Here in Northeastern Massachusetts, Winter has a tendency to linger longer than we would like.  Although this year’s addition was on the mild side, cold and clammy weather has persisted into May.  Thankfully, the asparagus season is upon us, just in time to add some Spring cheer to our Mother’s Day dinner.

I cook on Mother’s Day.  It’s what I do.  Preparing a tasty meal for my Mom, my wife Catherine and my daughter-in-law Lauren is something that I look forward to every year.  This year, we are going to have roast leg of lamb with beans. The beans are from last season’s dried bean harvest.  I will be making a salad consisting of the following ingredients fresh from the garden: spinach, lettuce, mache and asparagus.  I’m up early, making my to do list and creating a time line to make sure that everything comes together for a one o’clock meal.

A WELCOME SIGHT - ASPARAGUS PUSHING OUT OF THE GROUND

A WELCOME SIGHT – ASPARAGUS PUSHING OUT OF THE GROUND

Our asparagus season will last approximately two months which will take us into pea season.  I love these vegetable seasons, each in turn, contributing to the rhythm of life.  I started my 12′ x 12′ asparagus patch nearly twenty years ago.  Over the years, the start of asparagus season has taken on special meaning for us.  If you have been thinking about starting your own asparagus patch I encourage you to go for it.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

 

Garden Journal – late November

Garden Journal – late November

So, What’s Up with the Slowdown in Blog Post Production?

When I retired, I thought that I would have plenty of free time to blog, play the guitar, golf and garden.  Lately, there hasn’t been time for any of that.  Between caring for my ninety-three year old  mother and raking leaves, there hasn’t been much time for anything else.

About a month ago, Mom had a fall that resulted in a hospital stay.  While in the hospital, it was discovered that she had an infection.  She returned home weak, depressed and unable to live independently.  Being her only living child, it has fallen on me to make sure that she is well taken care of.  This is the beginning of a new chapter with lots of decisions to be made about where we go from here.  I am trying to embrace the moment, feeling that kindness is it’s own reward and that serving is a blessing.

As for the leaves, we have ’em and lots of them.  We have two giant and ancient sycamore trees in front of our house.  Many of the leaves are as big as dinner plates.  In addition, we have a copper beech tree that is just as large as the sycamores.  Add in the forty odd trees that line most of our property and we’ve got leaves – billions of leaves.  Armed with my i-pod, a lawn tractor pulling a cart with a homemade leaf hauling attachment, a leaf blower and a rake I kept after it until the vast majority of the leaves were removed from lawns and planting beds.  I move the leaves to giant bins where they will break down into leaf mulch which will be used in both the vegetable garden and perennial beds to enhance the texture of the soil.  I know what your thinking:  “Small benefit for a large investment of time”.

Lately, I have been feeling the same way.  It might be time to consider adding  ” fall clean-up by others” to the family budget.  However,   I do love being outside and I do feel a deep connection to our 1.5 acre home.  I also like doing physical things.  My motto is “you can do almost anything if you have the right mix on your i-pod.

ONE OF OUR MASSIVE LEAF CORRALS

ONE OF OUR MASSIVE LEAF CORRALS

 

Vegetable Garden Update

Leeks

We have been harvesting and cooking with leeks nearly the entire month of November.  I love leeks.  The aroma of a focaccia topped with sauteed leeks as it bakes in the oven is one of my favorite smells.  I recently made a leek, potato and bean soup that was delicious.  I will publish the recipe in my next blog post.     Also, I found a recipe for butternut squash and leek  casserole with prosciutto that was “The Hit” at a recent church potluck supper.  My goal was to find a dish  that featured vegetables from the garden that were in abundance in mid-November.  The leeks and butternut squash are a great match.  We’ve made this recipe twice and recommend adding twice as much cheese as recommended.  Here is a link to the recipe:http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/butternut-squash-casserole-with-leeks-prosciutto-and-thyme

LATE FALL LEEK HARVEST

LATE FALL LEEK HARVEST

DSCN1058

LEEKS TRIMMED AND CLEANED UP

Brussels Sprouts

This years crop is in very good shape.  Speaking with someone at the potluck supper, I was reminded that I haven’t always had success with Brussels Sprouts.  Why the good crop this year?  If I had to guess, I would say that it’s all about plant management.  This year, we have tried to be more proactive regarding removing leaves to promote good air circulation and removing competition for nutrients for the Sprouts as well as removing sprouts that have not fully formed or that show signs of black mold.  I also added plant supports to keep the individual plants upright.  This all seems to be working well.  So far, we have enjoyed Brussels Sprouts on several occasions.  Lately, we have been roasting them and then tossing them with crispy bacon and sliced apples.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS READY FOR HARVEST

BRUSSELS SPROUTS READY FOR HARVEST

 

Carrot Harvest

Last week, I harvested the carrots that I planted in the same space that had been the garlic patch.  These carrots were planted in early August.  The harvest was approximately eight pounds of carrots that should last us until the first of the year.  I made a beef stew with carrots recently that was well worth the effort.  I found the recipe on the Website “Once Upon a Chef’.  Some of my foodie friends tell me that this is really a beef bourguignone.  Here is a link to the recipe: http://www.onceuponachef.com/2011/02/beef-stew-with-carrots-potatoes.html#tabrecipe

 

Growing Crops in Low Tunnels

As I have been doing for the last four years, I have planted both Mache and “Red Kitten” spinach in the last several weeks so that they can over winter under plastic for harvest in early March.  It doesn’t take much effort but the reward is great, especially at a time of year when there isn’t much else going on in the garden.

In addition to the greens, I also planted carrots and beets in another tunnel for harvest before Christmas.  We will use the beets in our holiday borscht.  My wife, Catherine, is part Ukranian so borscht and pierogis have been part of our holidays for over forty years.  There is something quite satisfying about making the borscht with our own beets.

LATE CARROTS GROWING IN A LOW PLASTIC TUNNEL

LATE CARROTS GROWING IN A LOW PLASTIC TUNNEL

BEETS GROWING IN A LOW PLASTIC TUNNEL

BEETS GROWING IN A LOW PLASTIC TUNNEL

The Asparagus Bed

ASPARAGUS FERNS AT THE END OF NOVEMBER

ASPARAGUS FERNS AT THE END OF NOVEMBER

One of the last chores of the season in the vegetable garden is cutting back the ferns, raking and laying down lime and green sand.  This little bit of TLC is very important.  Asparagus likes a sweet soil as well as the potassium in the green sand.  Next Spring, I will water with fish emulsion in anticipation of another great crop.

THE ASPARAGUS PATCH CLEANED UP FOR WINTER

THE ASPARAGUS PATCH CLEANED UP FOR WINTER

This was another great year of vegetable gardening.  I hope that you had great success as well.  Now that Winter is coming, it is my intention to devote more of my posts to recipes, garden planning and crop rotation.  I wish you all a festive holiday season.

Greg Garnache

Garden Journal – 2nd Week of June

Garden Journal – 2nd Week of June

Pruning Tomatoes

By far, the most important task this past week was pruning the tomato plants for the first time.  With this pruning  I can dictate the growth habit that the plant will take for the entire season.   The first pruning involves eliminating any branches that are close to the ground or that project forward or backward.   My goal is to create a more two dimensional growth habit. I will train the plants to the main leader and one sucker on each side of the plant that will grow into major branches.  This creates balance.  After this initial pruning, I will prune out all future suckers that develop at the point where the branches meet the main leader.

PRUNING TOMATOES

TOMATO PLANT BEFORE FIRST PRUNING

TOMATO PRUNING

TOMATO PLANT AFTER FIRST PRUNING. NOTE THE SUCKERS ON EITHER SIDE.

Spraying Tomato Plants to Prevent Early Blight

Once all the tomato plants were pruned, I sprayed them with Copper fungicide.  I treated the entire plant and the ground surrounding the plant.  I will alternate Copper fungicide one week with “Oxidate”  fungicide the  following week throughout the growing season.  I learned this technique from speaking with the attendant in the Johnny’s Selected Seeds demonstration greenhouse at the “Common Ground Fair” in Unity, Maine,  If it’s good enough for Johnny’s it’s good enough for Greg’s Garden Party.

Harvest Time at Greg’s Garden Party

This past week was truly cause for celebration.  We enjoyed our first pea  harvest of the season.  Nothing beats fresh peas from the garden.  I shell the peas, boil them for three minutes, drain them, add butter, salt and pepper and enjoy one of vegetable gardening’s greatest pleasures.

GARDEN FRESH PEAS

THE SEASON’S FIRST PEA HARVEST

 

In addition to the peas we harvested garlic scapes , Purple Peacock broccoli, lettuce, asparagus, frisee, bulb fennel and rhubarb.  To celebrate, we hosted a dinner party featuring all of these ingredients.  We were blessed with a pleasant late Spring evening which allowed us to dine on the patio.  Fresh food from the garden, great company, a  lovely evening; what could be more perfect?  Here is the menu:

Appetizer:  Sliced baggette spread with Kerry Gold butter  and topped with French Breakfast radishes

FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES

FRENCH BREAD WITH BUTTER AND FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES

Truffle salt made these appetizers rock.

Salad:  Frisee and bulb fennel with olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon dressing topped with radish slivers, toasted chopped almonds and gold raisins.

A GREAT SPRING SALAD

FRISEE AND FENNEL SALAD WITH RADISHES, TOASTED ALMONDS AND GOLDEN RAISINS

We added shaved Parmesan cheese at the table.

Main Course:  Pasta with broccoli, peas, garlic scapes, asparagus, shaved Parmesan  cheese and Panchetta

PASTA WITH SPRING VEGETABLES

PASTA WITH SPRING VEGETABLES

Dessert:  Rhubarb Upside Down Cake.

RHUBARB UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

RHUBARB UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

All the best,

Greg Garnache