Category Archives: Garden of Eaton

Community Garden Wrap-Up

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Welp, this is the last official week of the 2015 community garden season – Closing Day is Saturday, October 24. Despite an early start to the growing season this year, it still seemed to fly by (although I’m still playing a game of chicken with our first hard frost. I think I can still get one more week out of my tomatoes…).

2015 was a great season that really put the “community” in community gardening:

We built a brand new garden, with lots of help from Nature’s Best landscaping company, in the Rose Park/Slant Street neighborhood that was so popular it still has a waiting list! Read more about it here.

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Gardeners digging into their Ivy St plots for the first time!
Gardeners digging into their Ivy St plots for the first time!

The Providence Garden now has a whole year under its belt. More and more St. Pat’s patients and staff were able to use the garden as a therapeutic space, and we donated over 1,200 pounds of produce harvested from the garden to the Food Bank. We even had a garden party to celebrate!

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Patrick and Brenna harvesting carrots for the food bank

Leadership committee members mingled and learned about other gardens during two community garden tours.

Photo by Brian Herbel
Photo by Brian Herbel

Fellow community gardeners and two of our neighborhood farmers shared their knowledge about garden planning, tomatoes (here and here), herbs, pest management, and cooking delicious meals.

Briam Roasted Veggies topped with beet caviar
One of the dishes created in the Orchard Gardens Cooking Class this summer – a Russian dish called Briam Roasted Veggies topped with beet caviar.

Lots of corn, potatoes, squash, raspberries and strawberries were communally maintained and harvested from community plots. (There are also rumors of gardeners growing 500 pounds of produce between two garden plots.)

Photo by Brian Herbel
Photo by Brian Herbel

Perhaps most importantly, over 350 Missoulians were able to grow their own food in community garden plots around Missoula, and hopefully they learned something new, had fun, and made friends while doing it!

Northside gardeners, post potato-digging. Photo by Brian Herbel
Northside gardeners, post potato-digging. Photo by Brian Herbel

Amidst these great happenings, we still had the usual unpleasant smattering of vegetable theft, vandalism, and unrelenting weeds. It’s always hard to see the fruits of your labor smashed, disappear, or be smothered by the infamous bindweed and purslane. Sometimes fences, timely harvests, gardener presence and garden signs just aren’t enough. If you have any tips on ways to further prevent these unpleasant occurrences, please do share! After all, overcoming these struggles together is part of what makes communities of gardeners stronger.

This was my first season working as the community gardens volunteer coordinator, and it will also be my last. I’m quite sad to be leaving such a great organization and program, but at the same time I’m excited to start a new position as the Food Access Program Coordinator with the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition. I’ll be working on ways to improve the accessibility and affordability of local foods for community members with low incomes. I had a great summer getting to know and work with leadership committee members and gardeners, and look forward to seeing you all around town!

Before we officially close down the season, all of our leadership committee members, garden mentors, and community gardeners deserve a huge THANK YOU for all your hard work in making this another successful year.  (That doesn’t quite  do it, but hopefully you feel the love and appreciation!)

Here’s to a great season in 2015 and even more bountiful gardens in 2016!

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Brenna, me, and flowers!

 

Head over heels for garlic

There’s not too much going on in the garden at this point in the season… unless you’re a garlic lover! Now is the time to plant your garlic for next year. Here are a few tips:

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Gather the largest, best-formed cloves of garlic.  Garlic cloves are essentially clones of their garlic plant, so you want to pick the cloves that look the best.  That way, they’ll produce big n’ healthy cloves just like their forefathers and mothers. So grab a nice looking head of garlic and pull its cloves apart, making sure to leave the papery husk on each individual clove (sometimes this is easier said than done, but it helps protect the cloves from disease and pests once in the soil). Then put aside the ones with the nicest shape – you know, the ones you really want to chop up and eat. Those are the ones you’ll want to plant.

It’s best to plant garlic cloves that are from garlic you or a friend grew or to buy seed garlic. Although technically you can plant cloves from grocery store garlic, it may not be a variety that is well-suited to grow in Montana, or it may have been treated which will make it harder to grow. If you don’t have trusted garlic to plant this season, purchasing some seed garlic online or at a local nursery could be well worth the investment because next year you can save that garlic to plant for the following year (no additional expense necessary). It’ll be a garlic revolution! (Or maybe just a new garlic-y tradition for you and your family….)

Plant in well-drained soil and rotate your garlic beds. Garlic doesn’t like to be over-saturated and will benefit from being rotated to different garden beds from year to year to help it fend off disease (although garlic is relatively disease and pest-resistant). Once you’ve chosen your garlic bed, plant the cloves you set aside into the bed. The cloves should be placed about 1-2 inches down into the soil, with the pointy end facing up, and they should be planted about 4-6 inches apart from each other. You can lightly water your garlic in at this point.

Mulch after planting. Mulching your garlic bed with 4-6 inches of straw will protect the cloves from extreme temperatures over the winter. If your garlic is exposed to many freeze-thaw cycles it can either rot or be pushed to the surface, where it won’t germinate.

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Voila! You’re work is done for the time being. In early spring you’ll see small shoots of green emerging from the bed of straw and this will let you know your garlic is doing just fine. At this point, you’ll want to keep the garlic bed well-weeded and moist (but not waterlogged).

If you planted a hard-neck variety  of garlic, scapes will form in spring that can be harvested for an early garlic treat.

When the leaves and stalks start to dry out, it is starting to get ready for harvest. It’s a good idea to stop watering your garlic once it gets to this point. Once 3 or 4 of its leaves are yellow, usually around August or so, the garlic is ready to be harvested.

And to carry on your garlic tradition, save some of your garlic for re-planting for the following year’s harvest!

Garden Therapy

Molly and Clark (the dog)
Molly and Clark (the dog)

Meet our guest community garden blogger for this week…Molly Kimmel! Molly is an occupational therapist at St. Patrick Hospital and a community gardener at the ASUM garden. She earned her  masters in occupational therapy from University of Washington in Seattle. Right after school, she moved to Missoula and quickly fell in love with a smaller town lifestyle. When not working, Molly likes to travel, spend time on any of Montana’s many rivers, and of course, tend her garden plot at the ASUM garden.  

In addition to the ASUM garden, Molly also actively participates in the Providence Garden – a different kind of community garden — where plots are rented out. This particular garden provides a communal space for St. Patrick’s patients, staff, and the surrounding neighborhood to enjoy and to provide a place of respite from hectic work and life schedules. The Providence Garden is located behind the Providence Center, which is a part of the St. Patrick hospital system and is a partnership between St. Pat’s and Garden City Harvest. Garden City Harvest garden coordinators (with lots of help from interns) manage the space and most of the produce grown at the garden gets donated to the Missoula Food Bank (over 1,000 pounds have been donated so far this year!).

Meet our wonderful 2015 garden intern, Brenna!
Meet our wonderful 2015 garden intern, Brenna!

We (Patrick and myself) sure enjoy working with staff and patients in the Providence garden and learning about garden therapy from a therapist’s perspective. In Molly’s blog post below, she writes about how she uses the garden as a therapeutic space for some of her patients.

(And for more information about another initiative taking place at the Providence Garden, check out this Missoulian article about prescriptions for veggies!)

Raised beds at the Providence Center Garden
Raised beds at the Providence Center Garden

When Michael started sautéing fresh onions, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, and carrots for his pasta sauce, I knew it was going to be a good day. Not many people get a homemade meal cooked for them at work, but I have one of the best jobs on the planet. As an occupational therapist at St. Patrick Hospital, I work with people after illness or injury to help them regain their prior level of function with everyday activities. We try to make therapy patient-centered, functional, and meaningful, so when I heard that Michael used to work as a chef in a restaurant and enjoyed gardening, I knew I wanted to take advantage of Garden City Harvest’s Providence Garden as part of his plan for therapy.

When the Providence Garden was getting underway this spring, staff reached out to the different units in the  Providence Center (PC) to see how the space could possibly be used for staff, visitors, and patients. Since the garden is fully accessible with crushed granite paths for wheelchair users and beds of various heights for standing/sitting/kneeling, I knew immediately that it would make an excellent space for patients during therapy.

Up on the 4th floor of the PC at the St. Patrick Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility is where Michael was sautéing his veggies, as well as receiving intensive occupational, physical, and speech therapy, along with 24-hour rehabilitation nursing services, to help him recover from a stroke. Prior to this summer, when I wanted to put together a cooking task with a patient, it meant a trip to the grocery store. Now, thanks to the Providence Garden behind the PC, I had a built-in produce department right in our backyard.

The day before Michael made me lunch, we walked down to the garden to procure our harvest. In doing so, we were able to work on maneuvering over uneven terrain, kneeling down to gather items, interacting socially with the staff at the garden, and getting back to one of Michael’s favorite leisure pursuits: gardening. For other patients, the garden can serve as a place to work on fine and gross motor skills, sensory integration, item identification, or simply as a place to get some fresh air or socialize with family members.

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Every Thursday morning of this summer, I have taken 1-4 patients to the garden for a therapeutic group. Everyone enjoys their break from the therapy gym and their time outside, whether they are hunting for the ripest tomato or sampling herbs to decide what will best accompany their upcoming lunch. Then on Friday, we often use what we harvest to make a simple appetizer or light lunch while practicing meal prep skills and kitchen safety. When we begin cooking, not 5 minutes go by before other staff, patients, and family members come walking into the kitchen saying,   what smells so good?

The garden itself has become an invaluable extension of our unit and our therapy offerings – allowing patients (and staff!) the chance to spend time outside, gather healthy, fresh produce, and get back to “normal” life. I am incredibly grateful to the staff at Garden City Harvest for their hard work making this garden accessible and I look forward to our continued partnership in the seasons ahead. For more information about St. Pat’s Inpatient Rehabilitation, visit our website or call 406-327-3260.

Many thanks to the kiddos in the adolescent  outpatient program who made these beautiful signs for the garden!
Many thanks to the kiddos in the adolescent outpatient program who made these beautiful signs for the garden!

{If you’re interested in checking out the Providence Garden for yourself, join us for a Garden Party this Thursday, October 8, from 4-6pm. The Clove Cart will be selling pizza slices, there will be liquid refreshments and live music. Come celebrate the season with us!}

Celebrating the seasons in your recipe rolodex

Try as I might, I have not yet mastered the art of food preserving to the point that I can eat much of my garden-fresh or local produce all winter long. But I’m ok with that, because it gives me all the more reason to celebrate when certain types of produce come into season.

For example, asparagus-season comes in late spring/early summer and it’s the only time I’ll make some asparagus soup – one of my favorites (I haven’t landed on my favorite version of asparagus soup yet, but I usually make some sort of variation of these Epicurious and Food Network recipes).

Proof of my moussaka leftovers!
Proof of my moussaka leftovers!

When eggplants start rolling in I love baking batches of moussaka, which is a sort of Greek casserole starring eggplant, ground meat, and a bechamel sauce. I don’t know what a traditional moussaka recipe looks like, but I found I enjoy this one from All Recipes. (In fact, I’m actually eating leftover moussaka for lunch as I write this blog post).

 

And now is the time of year that a barrage of plums are ready for eating – which signals it’s time for plum cake (in addition to many batches of plum butter, plum jam, and an experiment for this year – Asian plum sauce). If you don’t have plum trees in your yard, look for gleaning opportunities around Missoula so you can get your hands on some. Local plums are also available at the farmers’ market and in some grocery stores.

Apparently the recipe I use is a famous plum cake recipe, but I only found it last year on the Smitten Kitchen blog when I was for new ideas for my backyard plums. Maybe you already know this recipe, but I’m sure glad I found it because the cake is quite delicious. Lots of butter, sugar, egg, and, of course, plums. I also like to swirl the batter with plum butter that I always have left over from last year’s canning escapades.

mmmmm plum cake
mmmmm plum cake

Season-celebrating recipes are a newer thing for me, so asparagus soup, moussaka, plum cake, and pumpkin pie are the only recipes in my repertoire so far. Please share some of your favorite seasonal recipes in the comments below!

And for more advice than I can give on preserving your garden’s bounty, be sure to check out these recent blog posts:

What You Can Do Now to Build Your Soil

Leaves can be a great source of organic matter to build the soil in your plot. Photo by Dan Cripe
Leaves can be a great source of organic matter to build the soil in your plot. Photo by Dan Cripe

As the growing season winds down, most of our garden plans are also coming to a close. But as we pull plants out of the soil, it’s also a good time to give back to the soil and plan for how to build it up again for next year.

Building the soil in your garden plot involves  a variety of practices, including rotating your crops from year to year and regularly adding compost to your soil. Adding more organic matter into your plot is an easy and low-cost way to help build your soil, and now’s a perfect time to do it!

Organic matter

Organic matter is just what it sounds like…. materials that are organic. If you want to seriously get to know organic matter, it actually consists of three distinctive parts – the living (microorganisms, insects, plant roots), the dead (fresh residues of recently deceased microorganisms and insects, plant residues, manures), and the very dead (well-decomposed organic material, or humus (not the kind you want to dip chips and veggies into)).

Soil organic matter is the foundation for long-term soil health because it:

  • releases nutrients to for healthy plants;
  • sustains essential microorganism populations in the soil which help prevent serious pest outbreaks and soil fertility problems;
  • promotes good soil tilth (the physical condition of the soil). Healthy soil should be resistant to compaction, porous, and well-aerated.
Makign Compost. Photo by Jim Streeter.
Making compost at the PEAS Farm. Photo by Jim Streeter.

Organic matter in the garden

But first, a short detour…..

“Used to be anybody could farm. All you needed was a strong back . . . but nowadays you need a good education to understand all the advice you get so you can pick out what’ll do you the least harm.” —Vermont saying from the mid-1900’s

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts about how easy gardening really can be, and how difficult it can seem all at the same time. I won’t go any further into the ‘education’ of soil organic matter and why it’s important and the best way to do it, in an effort to not overly complicate things (and because I’m sort of flying by the seat of my pants here). But, if you’re interested in learning more about it, you can check out this exhaustive but informative text, Building Soils for Better Crops.

…Back to Organic matter in the garden

The good news is that you’ll already be adding organic matter and thereby contributing to the building of your soil through the process of closing down your plot for the winter. If you haven’t already, familiarize yourself with this checklist so you are prepared for closing day (October 24).

Click on this image of our Closing Day Checklist to enlarge it
Click on this image of our Closing Day Checklist to enlarge 

In the beginning of October, Garden City Harvest will deliver manure compost to each community garden. There will be enough for each gardener to take one wheelbarrow full of the compost to dig into her plot, then Voila! Organic matter will have been added.

But if you want to go above and beyond here are a few more things you can do to add more organic matter to your plot (remember, diversity is the spice of life, and the life of your garden soil):

  • Apply fallen leaves from your yard and rake them into your plot (if the leaves look diseased or have been sprayed, though, it’s best to play it safe and dispose of them some other way)
  • Grass clippings are another great organic matter booster that can be raked or dug into your plot (again, make sure they haven’t been sprayed with any chemicals). Grass clippings can also make great mulch – consider using some on your plot next year.
  • Rather than throwing your plant debris into the compost, chop it with a shovel and dig it back into your plot
  • Next year, consider using a cover crop that can be sown in a patch of your plot after some early season crops are finished

All of this fresh, but dead, organic matter will provide a feast for the microorganisms, fungi, and insect populations in your plot and bring in even more nutrients.

 A few indicators of soil health

Ever wonder how healthy your soil is? Store-bought tests can tell you the nutrient levels of your soil, but here are some more basic indicators of your soil’s health:

  • Soil color – the darker the soil, the more organic matter it contains. Healthy soil should be dark and loose
  • Minimal runoff and crusting – healthy soil should absorb water well, and not easily crust or cause water to run off
  • Sustained crop yields – healthy soil will maintain healthy yields of crops. If you notice that your plot hasn’t been yielding as much, your soil could need some TLC
  • No nutrient deficiencies – healthy soils don’t have nutrient deficiencies. Symptoms of nutrient deficiencies in plants include: small, light green leaves; yellowing or drying leaves; mottled leaves; weak stalks)
  • An earthy smell – soil should smell earthy. If your soil has no aroma, or smells mineral-y, it indicates there is not enough life in your soil
  • Lots of soil life –  If your soil has earthworms, mites, millipedes, centipedes, and sowbugs, that’s a good sign!
Wormy soil, photo by Dan Cripe
Worms and other insects are great indicators of healthy soil. Here’s one at Garden of Eaton. Photo by Dan Cripe.

Grow Your Own Tea

The cooling weather has renewed my daily tea habit. I love the feel of a hot mug of tea between my hands – even when working it makes me feel like I’m relaxing. The cool weather also has me thinking about ways to preserve my fresh garden produce, from freezing fruits to canning jellies and tomatoes to drying fresh herbs.

 

cup o' tea

Thoughts of tea drinking + drying herbs =  a blog post about making your own tea. Believe it or not, your garden can be a great source of tea. Teas can be made from both fresh-cut or dried leaves, flowers, or roots of herbs and some flowers and plants.

Common plants for tea

Some common plants and their parts that can be used for tea include:

Fresh or dried leaves of

  • Parsley
  • Mint (all kinds)
  • Lemon balm or lemon verbena
  • Sage
  • Catnip
  • Celery
  • Strawberry
  • Raspberry
  • Thyme
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Yarrow

Fresh or dried blossoms of

  • Chamomile
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Elderberry

Dried root of

  • Echinacea

How-to

You can make tea from fresh or dried ingredients. If using fresh ingredients, use 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs for every cup of water. If using dried ingredients, use 1 teaspoon for every cup of water. Then simply put the herbs in a tea ball or empty tea bag, pour hot water over them, cover the mug or cup, and allow to steep. (You’ll probably have to experiment with steeping times, but usually  three – ten minutes is sufficient.)

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Drying and storing tea

You can dry tea by bunching your herbs, tying their stems, and hanging them upside down in a well-ventilated space; placing a layer of herbs between two paper towels (in a well-ventilated area); placing the leaves and flowers on a screen (and placed in a well-ventilated area); or using a microwave or oven for quicker drying.

If you washed your herbs, make sure they are dry before putting them up to dry so they don’t get moldy (hence the need for good ventilation).

Once dried, usually after one to two weeks, remove the dried leaves, flowers, roots, or seeds and place them in an air-tight container. They will usually store for up to a year, but once they lose flavor throw them in the compost or trash.

If you are experimenting with different dried tea blends (such as lemon balm and mint, perhaps) or are adding extra ingredients (for example, dried lemon or orange peel), it is best to store the mixture in an air-tight container for at least 10 days or so to allow the flavors to mix.

[Of course, be careful when making and drinking herbal teas. Teas should only be made from parts of edible plants and some people might have adverse reactions to certain herbs.]

For some tea recipe ideas, check out these articles:

Dried tea can make a great holiday gift for friends and family and keep you warm all through winter! Let us know what sorts of tea you have made in the comments below.

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The folklore of herbs

Herbs are a lovely addition to gardens and kitchens alike. They smell great, add flavor to dishes, and some are often touted as good companion plants (basil and tomatoes don’t just taste great together, they grow well together too!). But have you ever thought of the legends behind these herbs?

Northside community garden mentor Sarah Johnson recently shared some interesting herb folklore with us during an herb workshop she led in June. Here are a few tidbits on some herbal history and other interesting facts, mostly referenced from the Herb Society of America.

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Johnson

Basil

  • Basil likely originated in Africa or Asia. It made its way to England from India in the mid-1500’s and then to North America in the early 1600’s
  • Basil is associated with the astrological sign Scorpio. It was once thought to cause spontaneous generation of scorpions and to cause scorpions to grown in the brain (scary!)
  • Despite this frightening legend, holy basil (known as Tulsi Basil) is sacred in Hindu tradition – during times of British rule, it was even used in place of a bible during oath. Tulsi basil is a Hindu symbol of love, eternal life, purification, and protection
  • Basil also has a reputation as being a good luck charm, good for exorcisms, and attracting wealth

Cilantro

  • Did you know that cilantro and coriander are one and the same? Well, sort of. Cilantro refers to the leaves of the plant, whereas coriander refers to the plant’s tiny, round seeds. BUT, in Europe, it’s just all called coriander.
  • Cilantro’s history is traced back to Middle Eastern, North African, European and Asian cuisines. Seeds that were 8,000 years old were found in caves in Israel.
  • In ancient Egypt, coriander was believed to be used as food in the afterlife and so was often gifted to the deceased.
  • Cilantro has a reputation of being a very polarizing herb – some people love it, some people hate it. One theory: some people are predisposed to be genetically intolerant to cilantro.
  • Learn more about cilantro’s controversy in this NPR article.

Rosemary

  • Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean, typically growing in dry, rocky areas near the coast
  • Rosemary’s genus name is Rosmarinus, which is derived from two latin words: ros and marinus. Together, these words translate to “dew of the sea”
  • Greek scholars would often wear a garland of rosemary during examinations to improve their memory
  • In folklore Rosemary is linked to remembrance, happiness, loyalty, and love during funerals and weddings
  • Rosemary has a long history of being an important medicinal herb. In fact, it is thought that a concoction of rosemary oil and alcohol cured the crippled Queen Elizabeth of Hungary after she rubbed the mixture into her joints
dill
Photo courtesy of Sarah Johnson

Dill

  • Dill is also thought to have originated in the Mediterranean region, nearly 5,000 years ago
  • Despite dill’s reputation as a weed in many of our community garden plots, its name means to calm or soothe
  • Dill is also known as “meetinghouse seeds” because its seeds were often chewed during long religious ceremonies to keep kids quiet and church members awake
  • Roman gladiators would eat dill to boost their courage and valor

Thanks for reading our garden notes this week!  I will be back next week with more garden ideas and tips.  Like what you read? Subscribe, right up there in the right side bar.  Until next week. . .

When your garden gives you weeds, make salad!

IMG_0215I recently returned from vacation and was delighted to be welcomed home by a bountiful garden. I guess the saying about a watched pot never boiling relates to gardening as well – my watched garden didn’t seem to be growing, but once back from vacation it seemed to have exploded!

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But the tomatoes, peas, broccoli, and kale weren’t the only plants that seemed to double or triple in size. Of course, those pesky weeds did as well. Luckily, the majority of weeds in my garden beds were purslane. Purslane is more of a nuisance than a real IMG_0214threat to plants, unlike some other types of weeds. In this instance, I bet the purslane did my garden a favor by acting as ground cover to conserve moisture during that hot, dry spell we had a couple weeks ago (while I was conveniently in the cool Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Still, favor or not, by the time I returned from vacation, it had to go.

Purslane is tricky to get rid of. You can’t just throw it in your walkway or in the compost because it will re-root itself – from any part of the plant, leaf or stem – when left to fend for itself. It’s best to dry it out on some pavement to make sure it’s good and dead.

I had so much purslane pulled from the ground, I didn’t know what to do with it. Then I remembered reading a recipe for a purslane salad in a cookbook I had lying around. I knew purslane was edible. Come to find out, it’s actually nutritious too! Purlsane is high in Vitamin E, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids (according to this Mother Earth News article).

So I gathered my purslane, washed it, dried it, and set to make my salad. I realized too late that I didn’t have the main ingredients, tomato and potato, for the salad recipe I wanted to make (shared below), so I ended up just adding a bit of purslane to a more traditional kale salad.

While I wouldn’t say I’m a total convert, it was a nice new addition to a salad, and I’ll likely experiment cooking with purslane a few more times, especially since it is so abundant in my garden. Apparently, there are many ways to use purslane – check some out here.

After all – weeds are plants too (they are just located in less-than-ideal spots!). For some more info about edible weeds, read this post from Make it Missoula…. and let us know how you eat your weeds!

Purlsane, Potato, and Tomato Salad – from Farm House Cookbook, by Susan Herrmann Loomis.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 small new potatoes, scrubbed
  • 6 cups purslane, rinsed, patted dry, and torn into bite-size pieces (note: make sure to rinse well! I’ve heard of people eating the stems and others throwing them away. I had the stems on mine, and they seemed fine, although next time I will tear the purslane into smaller pieces)
  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, quartered

Instructions:

1. Make the vinaigrette: Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, and garlic together in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

2. Place the potatoes in a vegetable steamer over boiling water, cover, and steam until the potatoes are tender,  about 20 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the steamer basket, and when they are cool enough to handle, cut them in half. Add them to the vinaigrette, toss, and set aside. (This can be done the night before you plan to serve the salad.)

3. Add the purslane and the tomatoes to the potatoes, and toss so all of the ingredients are coated with the dressing. Season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

Introducing our 10th community garden

Please join us in welcoming Ivy Street gardeners to our community gardening family.

The HUGE Natures Best crew and Garden City Harvest community gardens program staff at the big dig day.
The HUGE Natures Best crew and Garden City Harvest community gardens program staff at the big dig day.

The Ivy Street Garden, Garden City Harvest’s 10th community garden, has been open for nearly a month now. Opening Day for Ivy Street was June 6, and ever since then its gardeners have jumped right in. Plots are planted and looking beautiful – a welcome new sight for neighbors.

IMG_0124Previously, the little park that is now the home of the community garden was labeled an under-used park – until a Derek Smith, a neighbor, approached Garden City Harvest to turn it into a community garden. The creation of the Ivy Street Garden was a joint collaboration between the Rose Park Neighborhood Council, Missoula Parks and Rec, Nature’s Best, Inc. landscape company, and Garden City Harvest. We had wonderful funding support from the Office of Neighborhoods and Missoula Organization of Realtors. Read more about its construction in this Missoulian article.

Nature’s Best made creating this garden a breeze — with a crew of 25 the garden was built

Derek Smith -- neighbor and Natures Best employee, and Patrick Long of Garden City Harvest on the big dig day.
Derek Smith — neighbor and Natures Best employee, and Patrick Long of Garden City Harvest on the big dig day.

almost completely in a day! Derek Smith’s dedication was amazing, and he helped Patrick Long, our Community Gardens Maintenance Coordinator through every step of the construction.  We now have a fence, beds, and each bed has its own hose bib (great for drip irrigation!).  We also have a beautiful shed.

The result: a beautiful community garden in the Slant Streets area – the first in this neighborhood.

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Feel free to swing by the Ivy Street Garden and check out what’s going on. You can find it at the triangle-shaped intersection of Ivy, Marshall, and Franklin streets.

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Construction of the beds with Natures Best.

Don’t let those scapes escape!

MH GarlicGarlic is one of my favorite crops to grow. The positive attributes of garlic are countless. Here are a few of my faves:

It has a ton of health benefits. Garlic is a great source of anti-oxidants, which means eating a healthy dose of garlic can help boost your immune system and fight off colds. You can read more interesting tidbits about garlic’s health benefits in this Huffington Post article. (Maybe we can change that age-old saying to, “A clove a day keeps the doctor away?”)

It’s super easy to grow. Plant garlic in the fall, mulch it, and in spring watch for its green tops to start poking through the mulch. It’s one of the earlier signs of spring (and my favorite).

Last, but not least, garlic produces delicious scapes in the beginning of summer! Those stems that curl around at the top of your garlic are actually the flowers of your garlic plants, and are a nice treat to wet your appetite until your garlic is ready to harvest.

garlicscapeIf left on the plant, that cone-ish area of the stalk will open up into a flower and set seed. Those seeds are edible too, but since we typically eat the garlic bulb (and we can grow new garlic from the bulb’s cloves) those scapes aren’t really necessary.

In fact, if you want a nice hunk of a garlic bulb, it’s best to cut those scapes off. If left on, the garlic plant will focus its energy on producing its seeds for reproduction. When you cut the scapes, not only are you harvesting yourself a nice little treat, but you’re also coaxing your garlic into focusing its energy on growing its bulb size.

MH Garlic Curing

Once the center stalk has fully formed and grown just above the rest of the plant, the scape is ready to be cut! Just cut it as far down as you can without cutting the leaves off.

Garlic scapes have a milder garlic flavor, and taste much like a cross between green onions and garlic. You can use scapes just as you would regular ole cloves. You can also enjoy your garlic scapes in a multitude of other ways:

  • Roast ’em up and put them on your pizza or use as a side dish (roast at about 350 degrees for 20 minutes on an oiled cookie sheet)
  • Make some garlic scape pesto
  • Saute them, pickle them, add them to soups

Let us know how you enjoy your garlic scapes!