FIVE GREENS SALAD WITH RADISHES AND ASPARAGUS

FIVE GREENS SALAD WITH RADISHES AND ASPARAGUS

My favorite way of measuring the progress of the vegetable garden  this time of year is by making a salad for lunch every day and noting how many ingredients come directly from the garden.  Just a week ago, it was three.  Today, it is a total of eight.

Asparagus production is now in “full on” mode.  My small patch is pushing up 5 or 6 spears a day.  Yesterday morning, I picked a large bowl of greens that included “Red Kitten” spinach, a few leaves of Tuscan Kale, some Red Winter Kale, some “Black Seeded Simpson” lettuce and two small heads of “Little Gem” romaine.

FIVE GREENS HARVESTED FRESH FROM THE GARDEN

This morning, I added “French Breakfast” radishes and their tops to the mix.  Pure rock-n-roll!  This is why I garden.  Fresh, nutritious food, as fresh as it gets.  We have a saying here at Greg’s Garden Party;  “Nobody eats better than us.”

THE FIRST RADISHES OF THE SEASON

All the best,

Greg Garnache

 

Leftover Flank Steak with Rice and “Little Gem” Lettuce

Leftover Flank Steak with Rice and “Little Gem” Lettuce

We harvested our first head of “Little Gem” romaine lettuce this weekend.  Wanting to celebrate the occasion I checked the refrigerator and pantry to see what was available for ingredients.  Viola, leftover flank steak, a good start.  We also had onions, organic brown rice and a bottle of “Saigon Sizzle” stir fry sauce.

It all came together for a delicious and fun to eat meal.  Here is the recipe.

1 1/2 cups of leftover flank steak cut into 1/4″ thick slices against the grain and then cut into bite sized morsels

1 onion rough chopped

2 tablespoons of good oil (coconut oil, avocado oil or olive oil)

3 tablespoons of “Saigon Sizzle” stir fry sauce

1 head of “little Gem” lettuce washed and separated into individual leaves.

a batch of your favorite rice, freshly cooked

PROCEDURE:

Start the rice.

While rice is cooking, prep all of your ingredients.

When rice is finished cooking, heat a saute pan, add your oil and then cook the onions until tender and slightly browned. (approximately 8 minutes).                       Add the flank steak and cook for 2 minutes, just long enough to bring to temperature.  Add the sauce and mix well.

Put rice, steak/onion mixture and lettuce on a platter.  Place some rice on a lettuce leaf and then some of the steak/onion mixture.  Enjoy.

LITTLE GEM LETTUCE BOAT WITH RICE AND LEFTOVER FLANK STEAK SAUTEED WITH ONIONS AND "SAIGON SIZZLE" SAUCE

HAVING FUN WITH YOUR FOOD. THE LITTLE GEM LETTUCE LEAVES ARE PERFECT FOR MAKING A VESSEL OF GOODNESS

“Little Gem” Romaine – One of My Favorites

“Little Gem” Romaine – One of My Favorites

My wife, Catherine, is still very much a cooking magazine enthusiast.  Every month we receive issues of “bon appetit”, “Food and Wine” and “Saveur”.  I know, it seems like overkill.  We can’t possibly try all of the recipes that come our way.  However, I noticed that one of my favorite lettuces, “Little Gem” romaine, was mentioned in consecutive issues of “bon appitit” magazine.

The April issue included a recipe for Pea and Little Gem Salad with farro and pecorino cheese.  The May issue featured two recipes:  Hand Salad with Buttermilk, Grapefruit and Mixed Seeds which recommended “Little Gem” lettuce; and “Little Gem” lettuce with Green Goddess Dressing by chef Renee Erickson of Seattle, Washington.

All this magazine love for “Little Gem” makes me happy.  We have been enjoying “Little Gem” romaine here at “Greg’s Garden Party”  for about five years.  In the past, we have had mixed results growing other romaine varieties.  “Little Gem” has become one of the most reliable lettuces I have ever grown.

Why do I LOVE “Little Gem”?   It is easy to grow; simple as that.  It germinates at a high rate, grows well in the garden and has that wonderful romaine crunch.  “Little Gem” is just that; little and very special.  If you like to have fun with your food, try using “Little Gem” leaves as a vessel for rice and sauteed bite sized chunks of meat.

"LITTLE GEM" IS JUST THAT - LITTLE.

“LITTLE GEM” IS JUST THAT – LITTLE.

A head of “Little Gem” is just enough for two people with little to no waste.  Because of it’s small size, you can grow a lot in a small space.  Territorial Seed Company is where I purchase my seeds.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

 

 

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of March

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of March

Spring Comes Early This Year.

What a difference a year makes.  At this last season, we still had two feet of snow on the ground.  March in my corner of the Globe has been unusually mild this year.  I’ve already planted peas, mache, spinach, curly endive and gourmet baby lettuce seeds in the garden.  That’s right, IN THE GARDEN!  Last weekend I joked that I was embracing global warming because I could get things into the ground a whole month early.  Like many people, I am concerned about this phenomenon and thinking of ways that I can be a better steward of the acre and a half under our care.

A sure sign that we are experiencing an early Spring is that the garlic is up and poking through the bed of leaves I laid down in the Fall.  Time to take down the little fence surrounding the garlic patch and rake out those leaves.

GARLIC PLANTS POKING UP OUT OF THE GROUND

GARLIC PLANTS POKING UP OUT OF THE GROUND

We have been enjoying the “Red Kitten” spinach harvested from the garden.  It was planted last fall and grown under plastic.  My little two foot by four foot patch has produced a colander  full of spinach every other day for the last week plus.  Spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can grow, especially if you eat it raw in salads.  “Red Kitten” is especially good in this regard.

RED KITTEN SPINACH WASHED AND READY TO EAT

RED KITTEN SPINACH WASHED AND READY TO EAT

Direct Seeding in the Garden

The mild conditions at the beginning of March provided a perfect opportunity to get and early start on the growing season.  I planted no to low risk vegetables that can withstand a  frost or even a light snow.  I planted peas, mache (corn salad), spinach, frisee and a gourmet lettuce mix.  The mache was planted due to the poor production of the crop that was planted last Fall.  How disappointing!  We have had great success in the past with our mache crop.  Not sure what the issue was, but I planted fresh seeds this time. We love mache and hope that this planting will produce for us by the end of April.  The variety we grow is “Vit 419” from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  I seeded a 2′ x 4′ patch.

GETTING AN EARLY START WITH DIRECT SEEDING

GETTING AN EARLY START WITH DIRECT SEEDING

We have had great success with “Tyee” spinach, another variety from Johnny’s.  It is an early season spinach, so I thought I would get’r goin’ real early.  Frisee is also a cool weather crop so I planted one row of seeds.  I like adding frisee to other salad greens for texture.

I rounded out the early planting with a 4″ wide band of “Allstar Mix” mesclun, one of our yearly favorites.  This versatile mix works well into early Summer.  I plant a band every three weeks until the hot weather arrives.  Then I switch to “Heatwave Blend”.  I will plant at least one more band of “Allstar Mix” in late Summer.  Love this stuff.  By the way, seeds are available from Johnny’s.

Starting Seeds Indoors – High Nutrition Greens

This was the week to get seeds started for transplant out to the garden in April.  With the exception of celeriac, all of the seed varieties started were high nutrition greens; three varieties of kale, broccoli raab, broccoli, cauliflower, frisee, and lettuce. This year, I am making a conscious effort to make sure that we always have nutritious greens available from the garden.  I planted the seeds into 3/4″ square soil blocks that I made with my 20 block press.  I then planted 10 seeds of each variety except the celeriac and the Black Seeded Simpson lettuce. For those I used 20 blocks.

 

SEED PACKETS READY TO GO AND THE 3/4" SOIL BLOCK MAKER SOAKING IN BETWEEN PRESSINGS

SEED PACKETS READY TO GO AND THE 3/4″ SOIL BLOCK MAKER SOAKING IN BETWEEN PRESSINGS

THE TOOLS I USE FOR SEEDING THE SOIL BLOCKS. THE TWEEZERS MAKE IT EASY TO CENTER THE SEEDS IN EACH BLOCK. I THEN PRESS THE SEEDS INTO THE BLOCK WITH THE POINTED TOOL.

THE TOOLS I USE FOR SEEDING THE SOIL BLOCKS. THE TWEEZERS MAKE IT EASY TO CENTER THE SEEDS IN EACH BLOCK. I THEN PRESS THE SEEDS INTO THE BLOCK WITH THE POINTED TOOL.

 

As we begin another gardening season I wish to express my best wishes to all of you who are reading this post.  May you all have the best gardening year of your life.  If I can be of service, please reach out.  My goal is to build a community of people who enjoy growing their own food and sharing that experience.

All the best,

Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com

 

 

LETTUCE AND GREENS STRATEGIES FOR A LONG SEASON

LETTUCE BED MID-SPRING

Spring lettuce bed, mostly Black Seeded Simpson in front row, Allstar Mix in 2nd row, heirloom french lettuce in third row

One very important goal that I set every gardening year is having an uninterrupted supply of lettuce and greens over as long a period as possible. Even though I live in Zone 6a, I have harvested greens as early as February 26 and as late as December 18.

Extending the season to ten months involves several strategies. First and foremost is the use of low plastic tunnels. A low plastic tunnel will extend your season by at least one planting zone. If you add another layer of material, such as fabric row cover, you can simulate the conditions in two growing zones better than the one you live in.

There are actually two strategies at work here. First is the extension of the existing growing season by a minimum of two months. The second is overwintering crops in a low tunnel for consumption the following Spring. I use this second strategy for growing Mache, a European green that does well planted in October and harvested the following March.

IMAG0073[1]

Mache growing in a low tunnel in March

Getting started with low tunnels is fairly simple. You will need to purchase a pipe bender, some 1/2″ electrical conduit, some greenhouse grade plastic and plastic clips that hold the plastic onto the conduit loops. Most of these items are available from Johhny’s Selected Seeds. The electrical conduit is available at electrical supply stores and Big Box home centers. There will be more details provided in a later post.

Low tunnel with plastic pealed back exposing the conduit loops

Low tunnel with plastic pealed back exposing the
conduit loops

 

plastic tunnel clip

plastic tunnel clip

In addition to using season extending low tunnels, it is important to choose seeds that are best suited to a specific season. Some seed companies specialize in providing season specific seed varieties and provide charts and other information to help you plan for each season. I always start my lettuce season with “Black Seeded Simpson”, a variety known for it’s preference for cool Spring temperatures. I follow
up with various butterhead lettuces known for their particular seasons.

Mesclun is a mix of different lettuces and/or greens. Over the course of the season, I will plant a four foot band of mesclun every three weeks. My favorite is “Allstar Gourmet Lettuce Mix” from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. However, I am also fond of “Heat Wave Mix” from Cook’s Garden Seed Company. We’ve used Fall/Winter seed mixes as well.

Some other greens to consider are spinach, arugula, frissee (curly
endive), minitonia and claytonia.  All of these greens will grow in
cool to cold weather, especially when  protected by a low plastic
tunnel. Stay tuned. There will be more on this subject in upcoming posts.
Your questions and comments are welcomed and encouraged.

All the best,
Greg
gcgarnache@gmail.com