Tag Archives: beets

We’ve Got the Beet (Recipe)

Dave enjoying a burger at the Farm PartyWe’ve gotten a lot of requests around here for the Farm Party recipes. And what I think that really means is GIVE US THE BEET RECIPE! It is clear from this photo that a Farm Party dinner makes a guy happy. I posted the Kamut® recipe a few weeks ago, another favorite at the party. Now, let me give you the beet.

I will also tell you the story of how our beet salad came to be.

First we got a group of about six or seven EVST Grad and undergrad students and two Youth Harvest teens who have spent their summer up at the PEAS Farm. These folks have seeded, planted, harvested and weeded and weeded (and did I mention weeding?) to bring food to the Missoula Food Bank, their faithful CSA members, and all of our Mobile Market patrons at (mostly) senior affordable housing around town. Farm Party is a way for these students to team up and show the community what they’ve been up to. It’s a proud moment.

Tuesday before the party, the interns and Youth Harvesters harvested the beets and onions (and many other ingredients). Wednesday, the Farm to School staffers whisked the beets and onions to the Missoula County Public School’s Central Kitchen, where they have fancy machines like the robot coupe that chop and slice the veggies REALLY FAST.

Then, to the UM Catering kitchen, where they are roasted in the oven to perfection.

Then, to the First Presbyterian Church commercial kitchen where they are cooled overnight (because you don’t want to melt the cheese) lovingly combined by the PEAS Farm students and Youth Harvest teens the morning of the Farm Party with a simple dressing and delicious Lifeline Farms Feta-U-Beta.

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The beet salad in action at the Farm Party!

So, without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Farm Party Beet Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sized beets (should be around 1.5 lbs or 4 cups cubed beets)
  • 1/2 a medium Walla Walla onion
  • 1/4 cup safflower oil (or any oil you enjoy, at home I would use olive, but Safflower is definitely more local, if more refined)
  • 4 oz feta (we used Feta-U-Beta from Lifeline Farms to keep it local and organic — whoop whoop!)
  • Salt to taste

How to

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash the beets and remove tops if still attached (and feel free to use for another dish!). Peel and chop beets into bite sized pieces. Chop coarsely, about the same size as the beets.

Place beets and onions on a large cooking sheet (or two, best not to crowd the veggies). Cook until fork tender, approximately 20 – 30 minutes.

Let the beets and onions cool enough so that they won’t melt the cheese when you toss it all together.

While the beets are cooling, combine the crumbled cheese, safflower oil, and salt.

Once cooled, combine all ingredients together and serve!

 

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Midsummer Madness: a recipe roundup

KateCooper2009 (2)August. It’s August. And not just the beginning — it’s mid August. Bittersweet: I think that is the word for this month. The slow letting go of lots of sun, swimming holes, and unstructured days. Deep breath.

But we don’t have to say goodbye to vegetables too soon — we are just hitting the peak. From now until mid to late September our gardens and farms will be plumping up, ripening and sweetening our vegetables for your tables. This summer has been relatively cool, so tomatoes and eggplants and peppers may be slow, but the rest of the high summer veggies are coming on strong.

So pack it in while you can, friends.

Here are 9 recipes that make the most out of our last month of summer.

Summer Chicken Stew from BBC Good Food

This recipe has two steps. Really. It’s that easy. Great for a weeknight, has lots of seasonal veggies.

Vegetable Hakka Noodles (AKA Chow Mein) from Manjulas Kitchen

Simple sauce and noodle base that allows you to build whatever veggies you can in there. This recipe happens to include only veggies you’ll find in your CSA.

Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous with roasted chickpeas from Andrea Bemis of The Kitchn

(hint: the cauliflower is riced, so it takes the place of the couscous — sneaky!).

Cauliflower couscous by The Kitchn.
Cauliflower couscous by The Kitchn.
Cauliflower Steaks from The Kitchn

Apparently, this is a thing. Popping up on restaurant menus all over the place. I didn’t know. But it sounds easy and amazing, so put it on your menu this week! Great for vegetarians and those looking to give the cauliflower main stage.

Zucchini with Chorizo and Lime from The Kitchn

An easy one pot meal. There’s a lot of parsley in my CSA, so I’d sub that in for the cilantro in this recipe, and maybe add a little coriander (since that’s the seed of the cilantro plant).

Green Bean Potato and Corn Salad from Love and Lemons
love and lemons green bean and potato salad
Love and Lemons’ green bean, potato & corn salad.

This could be a side, or add your favorite meat or seafood and make it dinner. It even has basil, which I have a lot of. Making this tonight!

Summer Squash Vegetable Pizza from Love and Lemons

What a great way to use up veggies: grab a Le Petit crust, roll it out, and load on the veggies and herbs and a little tomato sauce or olive oil. Done and done. This one from Love and Lemons is a great mixture of seasonal veggies.

Darla’s Delicious Frittata from Epicurious

I’ve starting making a frittata over the weekend when I have a bit more time and serving it for breakfast (or dinner) throughout the week. I recently read a frittata recipe that, instead of listing what vegetables, just said “vegetables.” As in, as long as you have some veggies, cheese, and maybe a little cream or meat (totally optional, though I do argue bacon is always a good idea) along with eggs, you’ll be good to go.

Easiest Refrigerator Pickles from Smitten Kitchen
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Easy refrigerator pickles by Smitten Kitchen.

And a little nod to what’s coming down the pike: storing veggies. Pickling! Cucumbers, they are great for snacking, salading, and some great Greek food. But when in doubt, pickle them!

We’ll be taking a break next week. Because #peasfarmparty. Hope you all will join us for our 20th anniversary get down Thursday, August 18th.

I’ll be writing about going back to school (gasp!) next time around. Until then, eat well.

 

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The Perfect Summer Dish for (Almost) Everyone & (Almost) Any Vegetable

FriendsI’m having a few friends over for the fourth of July. The group has some diverse food restrictions, between my gluten allergy, a few vegetarians, a dairy allergy and a mess of kids. Plus, I want to show off my amazing River Road veggies. These limitations can actually be helpful, since the internet is infinite and time is short.

I’ve found a good solution. Inspired by Sarah Britton’s Best Lentil Salad, Ever, I’ll be making a beluga lentil salad along with my grilled tri-tip roast (mine’s from Jamie’s Naturally Raised Grassfed Beef — tri-tip roasts, as opposed to steaks, are amazing and somewhat hard to find. You can special order at a meat counter, or ask for them at the Farmers’ Market). A great source of protein, it’s also gluten free. It’s cold — who wants a hot dish on a day like today?  And it has lots of room for vegetable additions — I love when recipes, like Sarah’s, include optional extras to add to a dish. I’m pretty sure that my 4 year old will even eat this, or at least she’ll negotiate to just “take four bites ’cause I’m four,” rather than flat out, tight-lipped refusal.

All you need is lentils + a good basic vinaigrette + roasted/grilled veggies to get an amazing salad.

Let’s start with roasted/grilled veggies

roasted veggies
This is pretty, but don’t put your veggies this close together when roasting/grilling. Use two baking sheets or two shifts in the grill basket!

Who doesn’t love a roasted vegetable? You can roast almost any vegetable, save the greens, following these guidelines. Great roasting veggies are ripening up right about now — carrots, radishes, garlic scapes, zucchini, maybe even scallions. Plus, you can do almost the same thing (and I would argue it tastes even better) when you grill your veggies. If you want step by step grilling instructions, check out my grilled carrots post. I use a grill basket, but skewers are great, too.

Putting it all together

beluga lentilsWhile you’re roasting or grilling your veggies, cook the lentils. (Or, make it a grain salad instead by cooking gluten free millet, rice, or quinoa, the latter of which has a complete protein — bonus for vegetarians! For a gluten-full grain salad, use kamut, farro, or macaroni. . . whatever floats your boat.) Cool the veggies and lentils (or grains) in the fridge until they are just slightly warm, then mix them together and add the vinaigrette. Save any delicate ingredients — like herbs, greens, or cheese — to add right before you serve. Serve cold!

Sarah Britton’s vinaigrette has a pretty long list of ingredients. If you’d rather try something basic, go with Nora Ephron’s 3-ingredient vinaigrette. I just finished reading the honest and laugh out loud funny Heartburn by Ephron for the third time. It is filled with good food, including this vinaigrette, which is so good it factors into her divorce negotiations.  I’m guessing Ephron’s vinaigrette is what I will use for my lentil salad — I love cooking, but I love spending time with my friends more. Keep it simple, and leave time for wine on the back porch while the kids shriek their way in and out of the sprinkler.

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My friend Ali at a lazy Sunday dinner. She’s raising the roof for yummy food!

Updates coming soon on how these plans turn out!

How did you eat your way through the fourth? Share your favorite recipes and suggestions below — think of this blog as a way to exchange recipes with your CSA friends and interweb neighbors!

 

 

Got Toast?

Ingrid Estell, Northside Community Garden Mentor, is kicking off the first installment of her monthly recipe blog for the Real Dirt, which will be published every third Wednesday. Her recipes focus on creative alternatives and uses for garden-grown goods. 


Toast has come into its own. Once the side-kick to eggs or the solace for a sour stomach, toast can now be found as a main menu item at restaurants. In some establishments, toast is the sole culinary.

Being a longtime fan of home-toasted bread, I’ve created my own toast meals featuring fresh ingredients from the garden and beyond. Who needs to go out for toast when you can make delicious, and inexpensive, toast in your own kitchen? Have toast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

First, select your bread. I prefer Dave’s Killer Bread, Organic, 21 Whole Grains and Seeds. The toast recipes below do require bread that will support a few layers of ingredients.

Asparagus Toast (Serves 1)

1 slice toasted bread

4-5 spears fresh asparagus, trimmed. Cut in half or to fit bread. Wash, cover with wax paper, and microwave for one minute.

2-3 tablespoons brie, softened

Sprinkle of salt-free seasoning such as Mrs. Dash’s Original

For extra fancy asparagus toast: thinly sliced 2-3 strawberries

Directions: Spread brie over toast, add microwaved asparagus, sprinkle with seasoning, and, if using, top with strawberry slices.

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Swiss Chard Toast (Serves 1)

1 slice toasted bread

2 large Swiss chard leaves and stems, washed and finely chopped.

2-3 drops balsamic vinegar

2-4 slices, thinly sliced extra sharp cheddar cheese (enough slices to cover bread)

2-4 slices crisp cooked bacon

Directions: Cover the toast with sliced cheese. Place Swiss Chard in bowl and add 2-3 drops/sprinkles of balsamic vinegar. Microwave until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add to the cheese. Place bacon on the Swiss chard, either crumbled or in slices.

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Chard  Swiss Chard Toast

Taco Toast (Serves 2)

2 slices toasted bread

1 small to medium onion.  Halved, peeled, and sliced thin.

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

4 tablespoons cooked black beans

1 avocado, sliced

4 tablespoons cojita cheese

2 tablespoons chipotle salsa or salsa of your choice

Squeeze of lime

Directions: Cook onion and garlic in oil until caramelized, 10 minutes or so over medium/low heat. If you are using fresh green onions, chop the tops and throw them in the pan for the last few minutes of cooking. Once cooked, add to toast as the base layer. Next, add per toast: 2 tablespoons black beans, ½ of the avocado slices, 2 tablespoons cojita cheese.

Once the cheese is added, place toast under the broiler for 2-3 minutes and brown/soften the cheese. Remove from the broiler and add 1 tablespoon salsa and a squeeze of lime to each toast.

Taco Toast

The last toast suggestion is a carrot salad topping. The carrot salad makes 4 servings and I often eat it as a side salad for dinner and then use the leftovers for a toast breakfast the next morning.

Carrot Salad (2 servings as salad, 2 servings as toast topper)

1 cup grated carrots. With fresh garden carrots – leave peel on when grating. Store carrots, peel before grating.

1 orange.  Peeled, sectioned, and chopped.

1/3 cup raisins (or dried cherries or cranberries)

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1 tablespoon vinegar. I prefer cranberry vinegar but balsamic, rice, and cider vinegars work well too.

Directions: Mix all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy as a side salad, saving enough for toast.

Carrot Salad Toast (Serves 2)

2 slices toast

6 tablespoons Carrot Salad

4 tablespoons goat cheese

Directions: Spread each slice of toast with 2 tablespoons goat cheese. Top with 3 tablespoons carrot salad.

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Apricot – Beet Toast (Serves 1)

1 slice toast

1 fresh apricot, pitted and slices

1 small/medium beet, cooked, peeled, and sliced

2-3 tablespoons peppered cashews

2 tablespoons goat cheese

1 teaspoon of honey

1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

Directions: spread goat cheese on the toast. Layer beets and apricot slices on the cheese and sprinkle with the cashews. Drizzle honey and balsamic vinegar over everything.

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Do note:  all the topping mixtures can be served in flour or corn tortillas or even on large crackers. Also, adding bacon crumbles to any of the toppings makes for excellent eating.

Bad goat equals good dust

Molly BradfordHere’s a final post on putting up food for the winter from Molly Bradford, one of our dedicated winter share members, who knows how to put food up like a champ!

I’ve been putting up food for nearly a decade with produce from the winter share through Garden City Harvest’s River Road, also called the grubshed. In my last guest post for this blog, I touched a little bit on using some grubshedder techniques for your summer CSA. In this post I’ll talk about best practices for storing onions, garlic, shallots, squash, and root vegetables: carrots, celeriac, parsnips, beets and potatoes.

I’ve tried numerous techniques over the years for preserving my food, for as many months of the winter as possible, with the least amount of effort as possible. After many years blanching and chopping and drying and vacuum sealing and freezing things like carrots, I’ve come to realize that most root vegetables are easily preserved in damp sawdust.

Fun at Bad Goat Good Wood picking up sawdust for vegetable storage.
Fun at Bad Goat Good Wood picking up sawdust for vegetable storage.

This week my son and I visited Mark Vandermeer at Bad Goat Good Wood products here in Missoula’s Northside. He generously gave us as much sawdust as we wanted. It was actually pretty fun to hang out near the train tracks and scoop up handfuls of these wonderfully scented curly Q shavings, some already damp from the rain.

sawdust
Loading up the bags of sawdust for home.

The first thing I do is add water, a little bit at a time, to the shavings until they are damp but not swimming in it. I don’t want it to be so wet that when squeezed a bunch of water comes out. The next thing that I do is find some crates: milk crates, metal crates, doesn’t really matter. If the holes are pretty big, this is better for aeration. I either line the crates with screen, which I buy by the roll at Ace, or with cardboard that I’ve poked a bunch of holes in.

It’s a pretty quick and easy process:

  • Couple inch base layer of damp dust
  • Single, packed layer of root veggie
  • Enough dust in next layer to cover and protect first layer
  • Another layer of veggies
  • Repeat until crate is full, veggies are gone, or you’re out of dust

The raw veggies, ready to go:

before storage

Then, the potatoes getting covered in sawdust:

sawdust and potatoes

I always reserve a large handful of carrots for my fridge to start, as I go through those the fastest.  I’ll also keep out a little of the rest to cook this first few weeks: 6 beets, a couple parsnips, one celeriac, and a few potatoes.

I do get about 3 or 4 different kinds of potatoes in my grubshed. To keep them sorted, I like to divide one of my larger crates with pieces of cardboard horizontally so that I can create two or three little “bin” areas within my crate. Then I just layer each one of those areas individually after I line the crate with screen. I top each area with a little sticky note, so I know what kind of potatoes are in each “bin.”

Potatoes and sawdust in sections
Purple potatoes organized for the winter.

Don’t forget to check how to dried out your sawdust is getting throughout the winter. You can just use a spray bottle to mist the sawdust on the outside to keep it damp. The stuff on the inside is going to be wetter than the stuff on the outside naturally. Usually when I’m peeling back sawdust to get out some more potatoes or carrots, I take this opportunity to mist from the top and the side.

Luckily the garlic and shallots we get from Garden City Harvest already come dried or cured. But the process that they used to do this really isn’t much different than what I end up doing with my onions. As as recommended by Greg at the River Road farm, get a long piece of twine about arms with, fold in half and knot it at the end. Start laying the onions with the green stems through the twine. After you lay one onion through, twist the twine two or three times in one direction and pull the stem through as far as you can so the twine is tight and as close to the onion is possible. Then layer the next onion in the opposite direction. Twist 2 or 3 times. Then lay an onion in the opposite direction, twist again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Hang up the onion braids in a cool, dark, dry place so they are not touching. When the onion greens are completely dried out, you can snip the onions off and put them in the big crate with large openings for good air circulation. I store my garlic and shallots the same way as my onions; in crates or metal bins with good air circulation.

Braided onions
Onions hanging in the garage.

If you have a lot of squash, like we get with the winter grubshed, you first need to make sure that you harden them off inside. I usually spread them apart on a towel or a cardboard box and make sure that none of the skins are touching. I let them hang out for a week or so.

We have figured out a storage technique that seems to work pretty well. I rip pieces of cardboard from packing boxes. Because you don’t want any of the edges of squash touching, I use the strips of cardboard as barriers between my squash. The parts that touch can make soft spots quite quickly and cause mold.

The basic technique goes like this. Line the bottom of a crate with some cardboard. Put some squash in the bottom. Put some cardboard barriers between the squash that are taller than the squash. Put another horizontal layer of cardboard. Set some more squash on top. Put some more strips of cardboard between them to make a barrier. Repeat this until you have filled your crate.   I check my squash once in awhile to for mold or soft spots. The lucky thing with squash is, if you get a soft spot, you can just cut that part out and then cook up the rest of the squash and you’re good to go.

Tidbit on last years harvest: this year we ate our last squash in about April, and we had onions, garlic and a few root veggies til May!

Squash
Squash, separated with cardboard. If the squash comes in contact with another squash, it is much more likely to start to get mushy or mold.

This weekend, in addition to packing vegetables in damp sawdust, we’ve been unpacking vacuum sealed fruit that we picked at the peak of summer season like apricots, raspberries, and flathead cherries. Can you guess what we’re making? Fruit leather!  This year’s flavors include apricot almond spice, flathead cherry raspberry rhubarb with vanilla, and sweet asian plum with sour pie cherry, maple syrup and cloves.

Next up we’ll be making a huge batch of that sweet apple cider kraut I talked about in my last post, while my husband is turning all the hot peppers into an apricot hot sauce.

Hot peppers
Turning hot peppers into sauce. . . Apricot hot sauce.

Happy grubshedding!

Curing onions by Jacinda Davis

How to: putting up veggies for the winter

The changing weather signals that it is time for putting up food for the coming winter months. Since each crop prefers different storage conditions, I wanted to share some storage information that has helped me to stretch my local food long into winter (and even spring!).

The Crop Run Down

Potatoes

  • The key to good potato storage is to keep them away from light, at temperatures around 42- 55°F, with a relatively high humidity.
  • Try storing your potatoes in places like an unheated entrance, spare room, attic, basement or garage. Choose a place that is insulated to protect the potatoes from freezing temperatures.
  • Since potatoes like a bit of humidity store them in a perforated plastic bag, but do not tightly seal the bag — air flow is crucial to preventing mold and decay.   Bringing home the goods.

Winter squash and pumpkins

  • This crop stores best at 50 -60°F with a low humidity.
  • Good places to keep your squash are similar to potatoes (see above) with a bit less humidity. Just think cool and dry.
  • Winter Squash and pumpkins are a relatively easy storage crop. That said, their typical storage life is anywhere between 8-12 weeks. Hubbard and spaghetti varieties store a bit longer, acorns a bit shorter.
Pumpkins in the Youth Farm fields by Jacinda Davis
Pumpkins ready to be picked in the Youth Farm fields. Photo by Jacinda Davis.

Onions, Shallots, and Garlic

  • The important factors of good storage for onions, garlic, and shallots are low humidity, good air circulation, and cool temperatures.
  • The mesh bags you took these crops home in are great for storage. Try hanging the bags in a closet, or in an unheated room of your house.  It is as easy as that, and you will have these jewels to spice up your meals all winter long.   A few more storage tips…
  • Be sure to check your vegetables frequently and remove any crops that are starting to go bad.
  • Always protect your crops from freezing temperatures.

Carrots, Beets, Cabbage, Kale and Kohlrabi

  • Carrots, beets, kale, and the monster kohlrabi do best with near freezing temperatures, a.k.a. the refrigerator.
  • High humidity is also critical for long term storage of these crops, so keep them in a perforated bag. Watch humidity, if the bag is full of condensation open it up a bit to let some moisture out. If your crops are drying out close the bag up tight.
  • If you are willing and able to give up some space in your refrigerator for these winter crops they will easily last you till the spring!
Greens by Jacinda Davis
Chard, collard greens and curly kale. Photo by Jacinda Davis.

 

 

Experiment with storage locations, new recipes, and most importantly enjoy!

Zucchini by Chad Harder

Recipe Round Up Vegetarian (& sometimes vegan) Style

I do love meat, but sometimes a sister has to give it a rest.  And many readers have said, “FOCUS ON THE VEGGIES, GENEVIEVE!” Totally. You are right.  And it might be that I skipped lunch, but doing this research has uncovered some of the most interesting, beautiful vegetarian and vegan cooking blogs.  Here are a few, with a smattering of recipes that work well with what’s growing right now.

My favorite blog: The First Mess

This blog’s author has a garden of her own, and her breathtaking photos bring to life her fresh and delicious original recipes. Her veggie burger is supposed to be phenomenal.

[Vegan] EGGPLANT MEATBALLS with KALE PESTO

Kale only gets sweeter as the weather cools, and it’s our last chance for eggplant. . . Also enjoy garlic in this recipe.

SUMMER PANZANELLA

This bread salad mixes tomatoes, shallots, peaches, basil in a balsamic vinaigrette.

Cookie and Kate

[Vegan] Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Roasted summer vegetables mixed with herbs and quinoa — a great way to use what’s in your fridge and get your protein too (thanks, quinoa, for being a complete protein!).

[Vegan] Summer Squash Tacos with Avocado Chimichurri Sauce

Includes yellow squash or zucchini, corn, garlic, onion and herbs. Good for lunch or dinner.

Green Kitchen Stories

Bowls like these

A simple meal of veggies (you could top this with an egg for breakfast salad bowl, and substitute a great deal of these ingredients for what you have in your fridge).

[Vegan] Beet Bourguinon

Solid! Beets as a main dish. Julia would be so proud. Includes garlic, onion, carrots, fresh herbs, and lentils (a great local product of Montana).

Naturally Ella

[Vegan] Garlic Soba and Zucchini Noodles

Easy, simple Asian inspired dish of Garlic Soba and zucchini noodles (have I mentioned how you should get yourself a veggie spiralizer?

Sweet Corn and Sorhum Stuffed Peppers

Great seasonal combination of green peppers and corn, along with come fresh cilantro.

Other Vegetarian Recipes that Caught My Eye. . .

Unbelievably Delicious Cauliflower Soup – Ramsons and Bramble

[Vegan]Creamy Red Chard Linguine – Post Punk Kitchen

Beet and Black Lentil Borscht – My New Roots

Side note on pesto:

A little on how to make 11 kinds of pesto from Saveur — I feel like I am turning green, there is so much basil out there to make into pesto. . . And before you know it, the frost will nip that little basil.

Community “Fall” Gardening

It’s that time of year when many spring crops have finished producing and a bare spot in the garden is left in their wake.  But the fun doesn’t have to end yet! There is still time to turn that beautiful blank soil canvas into a fall garden masterpiece. Even though we have a shorter growing season here in Montana, fall gardening is still possible.

At Garden City Harvest, we don’t close down the gardens until October 24th. And even then, if you have some kale left standing or carrots under your mulch, you’re welcome to continue to use your plot as long as it’s cleaned up and looking good.

To start planning your fall garden you must first look closely at your seed packets and find the average days to maturity for the particular crop you want to plant. Many crops, such as cabbage, broccoli, and tomatoes, take too long to mature and there will not be enough heat and/or sunlight in our shorter days to boost them along. For the most part, you only want to plant crops that will mature before our first killing frost or that are cold-hardy and grow well in our hardiness zone.  Missoula’s estimated first fall frost date is September 27 and we are in USDA Hardiness Zone 5b.

These radishes can be sown all the way until the first frost comes, but too be safe, you'd probably want to sow them sooner
These radishes can be sown all the way until the first frost comes, but to be safe, you’d probably want to sow them sooner
These pea seeds are only recommended for fall gardening in zones 8 or warmer. These guys will have to wait until next year to be planted
These pea seeds are only recommended for fall gardening in zones 8 or warmer. These guys will have to wait until next year to be planted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall crops that need some protection

The types of crops that will mature from seed in time to enjoy in the fall include:

  • radishes
  • lettuce (most lettuces don’t germinate well when it’s very hot out, so consider planting these in a cooler area of your plot, where there is still some shade from other plants)
  • arugula
  • chard
  • beets
  • turnips

If planted soon these crops should begin maturing in time for fall, but you’ll want to keep your eye on night-time temps. The leafy greens on these crops need some protection from the cold. Try covering them up with reemay (a white gauzey cloth used for row cover) or even an old sheet or blanket. Covering these crops up at night will help keep their surrounding temperature just a few degrees warmer so they will survive through the night.

Reemay covering crops at Orchard Gardens. Photo by Amy Harvey
Reemay covering crops at Orchard Gardens. Photo by Amy Harvey

Cold-hardy and frost tolerant crops

These crops are a bit hardier and don’t need quite as much fussing. Some of them even taste a little sweeter after a frost hits them, such as kale.

  • kale
  • carrots
  • Asian greens, such as bok choi  and tatsoi
  • spinach
  • kohlrabi
kale
Kale. Photo by Erick Greene.

Other fall gardening tips

If you are buying new seeds, keep a lookout for winter varieties. There are varieties of some crops that grow a bit faster and/or are more tolerant of colder temperatures. These varieties are perfect for your fall garden!

Use extra mulch around your fall crops, especially over top of carrots. The mulch  helps keep the soil temperatures a couple degrees warmer.

Add some compost when planting new seeds to make sure there are still nutrients in the soil, especially if the space you are planting in was previously occupied by a heavy-feeder such as cabbage or broccoli.

For more information about fall gardening or winter seed varieties, check out some of these resources:

Please leave us your fall community gardening tips in the comments below!

 

Enjoy the fruits of your labor – Harvesting basics

In order to enjoy the fruits of all that labor you put into your garden you’ll have to  harvest, but sometimes it’s hard to tell when something is ready to go. As gardeners we know our food is good even when it doesn’t look perfect, so the good news is that it’s not absolutely necessary that we have our harvesting techniques down to a science (like many of our fellow farmer friends do).  So go ahead and give yourself a break, but read on for some harvesting tips.

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I would argue that as gardeners we are mainly concerned with harvesting crops before it is too late…… Too late generally means the plant has started to flower, which means it is putting more energy into growing seed rather than its various parts that we like to eat. And this generally results in a bitter-tasting veggie that is starting to lose its nutritional punch. But even when it’s “too late,” it’s often not really too late. You’ll see.

On the other hand, many things actually taste a little sweeter when harvested on the early side, for example, carrots, beets, and pretty much any kind of green. We miss out on some growth potential if we harvest our crops early, but they’ll still pack plenty of nutrients! (and look cute too…?) This also comes in handy when you are thinning your rows — big or small, they are still edible.

Carrots and Beets and Greens – oh my!

Crops like the aforementioned carrots, beets, and greens are fairly straightforward. You can tell just by looking at their size if they are ready. In general, if your veggies look like something you could get at the grocery store, they are ready to go! Carrots are typically at their peak around 1″ – 2″ in thickness, while beets are typically at their peak around 2″ – 3″ in thickness. You can poke your finger in the ground to feel how big your carrots and beets or other root veggies are, and of course you can just admire those beautiful leafy greens from afar to figure out if they’re ready for pickin’.

Note that regular, timely harvest of greens (including kale, lettuces, swiss chard, etc.) usually increases the length of harvest. And if you’re not going to eat them right away, it’s best to pick greens in the early morning or evening when the sun isn’t so hot – it helps to keep the greens from wilting.

A few other common crops are harder to determine – like squash, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and broccoli and cauliflower. Here’s a little more info on those:

Squash – summer and winter varieties

Summer squashes are best harvested when young and tender, when their skin is easily penetrated by a fingernail.  Zucchinis grow a ton in a day, so these guys require a careful eye. If you run late harvesting one it will probably taste better shredded in zucchini bread than used fresh. Or, hollow out the seeds, stuff it with a yummy filling, and bake!

Unlike with your zukes, you don’t want to watch winter squash so closely every day – at least not for awhile (unless you enjoy watching water boil). The hard skin of winter squash develops over time and is what helps it store so well, so you don’t want to rush on harvesting these gems. Mature winter squash will be hard and impervious to scratching. Once that thick skin has developed and you perform the fingernail test (press a thumbnail against the skin; your nail shouldn’t leave a visible dent) harvest your squash,  leaving at least 1” of stem attached. It’s also best to harvest before a frost comes, which could decrease their storage time.

Young, tender zukes about ready to harvest
Young, tender zukes about ready to harvest
This big guy should have been harvested a few days ago for best flavor
This big guy should have been harvested a few days ago for best flavor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cucumbers

These also can grow a lot in a short amount of time and so require a watchful eye. Cucumbers are best when slightly immature. Most varieties will be 1.5”- 2.5” in diameter and 5”- 8” long, except for pickling cucumbers, which will be blocky and not as long. Immature cukes are spiky, but will become less spiky as they mature. You can easily wash off the rest of the cucumber spikes after harvesting by running your hand over the cucumber under water. If you get to a cuke too late, it will still taste pretty good pickled!

These cukes will be ready in no time!
These cukes will be ready in no time!

Potatoes

You can harvest potatoes early or late, depending on your preference or what you plan to use the potato for. New potatoes, or earlies, can be harvested soon after the plants start blooming their beautiful flowers. Early potatoes are generally smaller and don’t store well so you want to eat them right away.

Or you can wait to harvest a crop of potatoes later – after the tops have died down and when the ground is dry. These potatoes will store much better, as long as they are cured for 10-14 days in a dark, well-ventilated location at 45 F to 60 F.

Onions

Onions can be harvested at different times according to what you’ll be using them for. If using them fresh, harvest at ¼”- 1” in diameter (basically, when they look big enough to be useful for whatever you need them for). If harvesting onions for storage, wait until they are bigger, their tops have fallen over, and their necks are shriveled. A mature bulb will not be dented if you push your finger into it.  To cure onions, place them in a single layer or mesh bag in a dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight for 3-4 weeks. Remove their tops when fully dry.

An onion ready for some pickin'
An onion ready for some pickin’

Cabbage

A beautiful cabbage head ready to harvest
A beautiful cabbage head ready to harvest

Cabbage is ready to harvest when the leaves surrounding the head start to open up a bit, and when the heads are solid. If cabbage heads become over mature they may split. If your head splits, it’s still edible. It just won’t last as long and you’ll likely have to cut out the parts around the split.

 

 

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli and Cauliflower may be the trickiest plants in regards to timing their harvest. Broccoli is best harvested while heads are a deep green, still compact, and before buds start to open into flowers. If the buds start to separate and the yellow petals inside start to show, harvest immediately. I often get to my broccoli a little too late (oops), but I still eat it, flowers and all!

This broccoli head should be harvested immediately. Many of its buds are about to pop!
This broccoli head should be harvested immediately. Many of its buds are about to pop!

When harvesting, cut the stem at a slant about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) below the head. Removing the head on some varieties will produce side-shoots in the axils of leaves and you can get 4 to 6 additional cuttings of shoots per plant over several weeks.

A beautiful broccoli head ready to be harvested
A beautiful broccoli head ready to be harvested

Follow the same rule of thumb for cauliflower, but when the curds are about 1”-2” in diameter fold some of the outer leaves over the cauliflower heads. This helps prevent the head from becoming yellow and/or blemished. Once you cover the heads they should be ready for harvest in 1-2 weeks.

Broccoli buds starting to open and flower
Broccoli buds starting to open and flower

Beeting the heat

Yes, the title of this blog post is a horrible food pun. Please keep reading.

Beet MountainIf you’re a backyard or community gardener, CSA member, farmer’s market-goer, or volunteer, you’re probably aware that it’s beet season. One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve helped out at the River Road Farm CSA is that some people are weary of beets– I see people picking through the selection trying to find the smallest ones. The hesitancy is understandable; until recently, I could only think of two basic uses for beets: raw in salads and roasted in salads. I wasn’t thinking very creatively.

Beets have a deep, rich flavor reminiscent of the soil they grow and mature in. We grow three varieties at River Road: the classic, deeply colored Detroit Dark Red, the sunny orange Golden, and the red and pink striped Chioggias. You might be growing these in your garden, or seeing them in your CSA at one of our other farms. In any case, all have that classic, rich flavor, but the Golden beets are slightly lighter and more delicate than the other two varieties. Another common characteristic is their slightly sweet flavor, which is one of the reasons beets are such a great addition to salads and other savory dishes.

three beet typesBut, let’s face it– no one wants to turn on their oven in the middle of summer to roast all their beets, and eventually the salad route gets old. And, with the sheer numbers of beets maturing and ready for harvest this time of year, some imagination is called for.

As I was eating a beet the other day, I started thinking about utilizing their sweet flavor. It was one of those terribly hot days and the thing I was craving more than anything else was Big Dipper’s pomegranate sorbet. But, alas, I didn’t have that pomegranate sorbet. All I had was a salad with beets, slightly warm from sitting in my backpack for four hours. I wondered if it was possible to enhance the natural sweetness of beets, and use the flavor as a sweetener, perhaps (a ha!) in a sorbet. You can even harness their power in other sweet recipes. Here are a few ideas from our friends at The Kitchn, plus one more way you can enjoy beets for dessert.

Sure enough, the recipe exists and it’s incredibly simple. It does, however, require a food processor. If you’re an ill-prepared college student like me, you may have to borrow one from your landlords.

Beet Sorbet

Ingredients

  • 2 cups beet puree (3 large beets, 4 medium beets, or 6 small beets)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

What to dochioggia chop

  1. Wash and quarter the beets. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then let simmer for about 30 minutes, until the beets are soft enough to stick  a fork into.
  2. Pour the beets and their cooking juices into a food processor and blend until you have a fairly smooth puree. Chill the puree in the fridge for about an hour.
  3. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring so the sugar dissolves. Once at a boil, immediately remove from heat and chill in the fridge for about an hour.
  4. Once both components are chilled, mix them together along with the lemon juice in the saucepan.
  5. This is the step where having an ice cream maker would be super handy: if you have one, pour the mixture in and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sorbet. If you’re like me and you don’t have one, put the saucepan of sorbet in the freezer for 20-30 minutes and stir thoroughly. Make sure to blend all of the frozen bits. You’ll need to keep repeating this step every 30 minutes or so, until you get the desired texture: evenly frozen, not too chunky. 5 times or so should do the tbeet sorbetrick.
  6. Freeze the sorbet for 4-5 hours before serving.
  7. You can add lots of fun ingredients to enhance the flavor! I liked lemon and ginger (I chopped up some crystallized ginger and mixed it in during step 4). I’ve also heard honey is a good addition, as is orange juice instead of lemon juice.

 

A word from the PEAS Farm

Josh Slotnick, co-founder of Garden City Harvest and Director of the GCH/EVST PEAS Farm shares his perspective on the unseasonable weather we’ve been experiencing as of late. His candid explanation paints a picture of your farmers’ experience in adapting to changing climate conditions, and why its challenging to predict exactly what will end up in your weekly veggie share:

“Extreme heat mixed up the months for us at the PEAS farm. We had July in June, and basically no May at all. For the CSA, this has meant some summer treats early– we recently were able to give out eggplants and peppers, an unheard of offering in mid-July. Now, in actual July, we appear to be getting June, so all those warm weather plants put on their brakes, so to speak.

The early heat made the weeds go crazy, but we are getting caught up as our numbers are high. Climate change, thy name is volatility! It appears, unfortunately, we are slower to adapt than climate is to change. All in all, the season is unfolding well, and like everyone else, we are grateful for what looks like a reduction in fire danger. Working in the smoke pleases no one, and Cajun smoked zucchini has never been a big hit. We’ll settle for slower growing tomatoes.”