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Image from Zuni Cafe's Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini Bread-and-Butter Pickles with Ginger

If you’re like me,  you are probably wondering, “What am I going to do with all this summer squash!?!” Whether it’s yellow zucchini, green zucchini, striped zucchini, Crookneck, Pattypan, Romanesco, Cousa… you’ve probably got a lot of summer squash on your hands and beginning to wonder what else to do with it.  A couple weeks ago, it was exciting to slice one up for an omelet or throw some spears on the grill. However nowadays, the excitement has worn off, and I am just trying to keep up with the abundance that these plants can produce.

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Before you start secretively dropping unwanted squash plants in your friends’ car or on your neighbors’ doorstep, consider this recipe below for zucchini pickles. This recipe was given to me by a good friend, who adamantly doesn’t like “regular pickles.” And, from someone who doesn’t like bread-and-butter pickles, I promise you this isn’t like those mouth puckering, store-bought, bread-and-butter pickles either. These zucchini pickles are tender but firm, slightly sweet and tangy with a hint of cleansing ginger at the end. You’re sure to impress your friends at potlucks, and when the snow flies, you will even find yourself enjoying this essence of summer gardening in a jar.

Zucchini Bread-and-Butter Pickles with Ginger

Image credit: Craving Something Healthy
Image credit: Craving Something Healthy

Makes about 6 pint jars.

Ingredients:

4 pounds of zucchini

1 pound of mini onions (small sweet onions)

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

6 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)

1/2 cup light agave nectar or 3/4 cup mild honey

1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder

6 thin rounds of fresh ginger

Directions:

Scrub the zucchini and cut them into 1/4-inch rounds (Emily’s note: I’ve made this recipe with 1/2-inch-wide spears, and that turned out well too). Cut the onions in half-lengthwise and thinly slice them into half-circles. Put the zucchini and onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with the 1/4 cup salt, tossing to combine. Cover with a layer of ice cubes and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Pick out any unmelted ice, drain well, and rinse under cold-running water. Toss with coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes and set aside.

Prepare for water-bath canning: Wash the jars and place them in the canning pot, fill with water and bring to a  boil. Put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl. (Emily’s note: For more directions about water-bath canning, I recommend you ask your closest “canning guru.” You can also find many resources online or in cookbooks with step by step directions.)

In a nonreactive pot, combine the apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 cups water, the agave nectar (or honey), turmeric, mustard powder, and the remaining 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil.

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded kitchen towel. Drain the water off the jar lids. (Reference your personal canning guru or other resources here if needed).

Working quickly, put a slice of ginger in each jar, then pack the zucchini and onion in the jars (not too tightly). Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace at the top. Gently swirl a chospstick or butter knife around the inside of each jar to remove air bubbles . Use a damp paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove any residue on the rims of the jars. Then, put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight. Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch.

Bring to a boil again, and boil for 15 minutes to process. Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. You should begin to hear popping sounds as the flat lids seal to the jar. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately and consumed as soon as possible because those that didn’t seal will not keep long-term. Label the sealed jars, store and enjoy during non-zucchini season.

This recipe is borrowed from Liana Krissoff and her book Canning for a New Generation.

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Wrangling Strawberries

Sweet, juicy strawberries are a treat right off the plant. Not only are they easy to grow, but they are also easy to find in all of the community gardens. Many of us have strawberries already growing in our plot or would like to plant some for next year. Whatever you have, it’s important to know how to plant, care and maintain a healthy strawberry patch to ensure a fruitful harvest and minimize disease and pests. Furthermore, the best time to wrangle your strawberry patch is after the fruit harvest, which is right now in Missoula. Below are guidelines and best practices for growing (and wrangling) strawberries in the garden.

Planting

The best way to plant strawberries in a home garden is in a matted row system, where daughter plants are allowed to develop into a solid mat, or in a spaced row system, where the daughter and mother plants are spaced evenly along the row.

(Warning: The photos below were taken from real-life community gardeners’ plots and may contain some weeds.)

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Strawberries (in front) in a matted planting.
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Strawberries in a spaced row planting.

To begin your new strawberry patch, ask a garden neighbor! Since strawberries spread with runners and always produce an abundance of daughter plants, your neighbor will probably be more than willing to share. Just make sure to ask first! You can also find strawberry starts at any local nursery.

Plant on slightly raised beds to assure good soil drainage and work rotted manure or compost into the soil to improve its structure and water-holding capacity. Form the soil beds 18-24 inches wide and three to four inches above grade. Make sure to provide adequate space for sprawling, and set plants 24 inches apart.

Make planting holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending it. If roots are longer than 8 inches, trim them when transplanting. Most importantly, don’t plant too deep! The roots should be covered, but the crown should be right at the soil surface.

Firm the soil about the plants and water them in. If you can lift the plants with a quick jerk on a leaf, the soil is too loose, and the roots may dry out.

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In the first year, pick off blossoms to discourage strawberry plants from fruiting. If not allowed to bear fruit, they will spend their food reserves on developing healthy roots, and the yields will be much greater in following years.

Managing Runners

As the plants grow, you want to keep the beds from becoming overcrowded, which can reduce yield while encouraging disease and pest habitat. Managing runners and the “daughter plants” are the principal means way for keeping your strawberry bed healthy and fruitful year after year. Furthermore, first and second generation plants produce the highest yields!

Because strawberry plants produce an excess of daughter plants, prune extra runners and old plants every season after the last harvest:

  • If you have the spaced row system, leave only four daughter plants evenly spaced (about 10 inches apart). New daughter plants produce the best fruit the following spring if planted early in the spring, and each plant has at least ten leaves by autumn. When new plants are established, remove the old ones (three years and older).
  • If you have a matted system, pull any weeds, trim rouge runners, and cut all strawberry plants down to 2” above grade. Don’t worry, the plants will bounce back over the rest of the summer!

Best Practices for a Fruitful Harvest

  • Moisture is incredibly important due to shallow roots, and strawberry plants need a lot of water when the runners and flowers are developing. Water adequately, about one inch per week.
  • Keep the beds mulched to reduce water needs and weed invasion.
  • Be diligent about weeding, especially in the first months after planting.
  • Pest and Disease Control: Often we don’t realize that a lush strawberry forest creates a cool and damp environment perfect for slugs and other pests, including rodents. Keep your strawberries thinned and healthy will minimize pests and fungal problems.
  • Many berries are damaged by birds, especially robins. Excluding the birds with netting or row cover is most effective. Another method is to drive heavy (stronger than lath) stakes, four feet in length, into the ground at corners of the strawberry bed. Stretch twine between the stakes and attach streamers every five feet along the string to deter birds.
Netting strawberries is the most effective way to keep hungry birds out.
Netting strawberries is the most effective way to keep hungry birds out.

For more information, visit the Montana State Extension online resource on strawberries by clicking here or to the Old Farmers Almanac page on strawberries.

 

 

Cauliflower

Cauliflower: why I always ask for more (& 5 ways to sub it for carbs)

When I see cauliflower on my CSA’s chalkboard, I am filled with joy. It is one of those vegetables that does so much in place of a starch. Sub it for rice, pizza crust, mashed potatoes, tots (just heard about that one!). . . The list goes on. One of my favorite recipes is mashed cauliflower: a simple, elegant dish that my 16 year old niece always revisits for seconds.

Mashed cauliflower (or as we sometimes say, faux potatoes) can contain a basic three ingredients or get a bit more complicated (but not much. . .like add some garlic and Parmesan, or finish it with some truffle or rosemary salt).

Here’s what I did:

I had about two heads of cauliflower worth (they were smaller than that) of cheddar and regular cauliflower (just because that’s what I had). I chopped them up into flowerettes and put them in my large pot, with a steamer tray at the bottom. I poured in about a cup of water (enough to get a half inch of water in there) and steamed them until they were a little more than fork tender. You don’t want to over cook them, but you want them to be soft enough to mash well. Mine took about 10 minutes.

While they cook, if I have the oven going I might slip some garlic in to roast as well. And slip a few cloves of that in the food processor. Or saute some diced garlic.

Mashed Cauli

Once the cauliflower is cooked, take out your food processor (a hearty blender would probably work, too) and add the cauliflower to it. I had to do this in two or three shifts. I used a total of 1/3 cup olive oil, but poured some in each batch. And then a little extra at the end. . . Cause it’s so good. I added a 1/2 tsp of salt as well, distributed in each. And then another pinch at the end.

I let the food processor run for a good two to three minutes to really get the cauliflower into

a pureed mash.

And then I served it up.

You can use this to top a farmer’s/cottage/shepherd’s pie. You can serve it with steak. You can do so many things with this little side dish.

RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2-1 tsp salt (I like Redmond Salt — localish, filled with minerals)

2 heads (or the equivalent) of cauliflower

HOW TO

1. Chop the cauliflower into flourettes. No need to be pretty about it, these will eventually be mashed. But don’t hack them so badly that much of the cauliflower turns to crumbs.

2. Steam in a large pot (you can boil them too). Takes about 10 minutes. Cook them well, until they are very fork tender.

3. In batches that work for your food processor, add the cauliflower, some of the olive oil, and some of the salt. Stick your finger in to see if you like the taste. Add more salt or oil if you don’t! Here is when you would add a clove or two of roasted garlic, some rosemary salt or just rosemary, or other herb combination. This is a very flexible recipe.

4. Process the ingredients for 1-3 minutes, until smooth.

5. Add some finishing salt if you feel like it (I really liked truffle salt, took away some of the cauliflower flavor).

Here are a few other ideas that will make this little, sometimes smelly, nondescript, unassuming veggie something that will get your blood pumping as well:

Featured image is by Mike Mozart.

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scapes

Scape Gazpacho!

A few weeks ago, I got this recipe from Ellie Costello, owner of Black Bear Soups (which you will find at the Clark Fork Farmers’ Market), director over at MUD, and former PEAS Farm caretaker. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you still had scapes hanging out in your fridge, so I thought having another scape recipe would be a good idea. . . So here’s Ellie with a new twist on gazpacho–great for hot weather! 
Ellie and a scapeDuring scape season, some folks are loading up from my stand in bulk to make pickles. In far greater number, I get questions while a market-goer eyes my pile of green curly-cues. Most often: “Are those beans?” or, “How do you use them?” During my time at the PEAS farm several years ago, one visiting cattle rancher pointed at the garlic scapes shooting out of the tops of the hardneck garlic and shockingly proclaimed “Now what kind of corn is that!?”
Since scapes are short lived, you must capitalize on their sweet garlicky goodness. Here is one more way to highlight these mysterious and dramatic green curls: Garlic Scape Gazpacho.
You’ll need:Black Bear market stand
1 cup dry bread in chunks
1.5 cups cold water
1 cup of your choice of nuts
1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups chopped lettuce leaves
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cucumber chopped
4-8 chopped garlic scapes
3 tablespoons of your choice of fresh herbs
2 tablespoons sherry or apple cider vinegar
How to:
Soak the bread in water, then squeeze most of it out. Blend your soggy bread, nuts, scapes, and 1 cup water in a food processor. Once a paste has formed, drizzle in olive oil as you blend, then transfer to a bowl. Put the lettuce, spinach, cucumber, and herbs in the food processor and blend with remaining 1/2 cup water. Whisk the puree and the sherry or vinegar into the bread mixture. Add salt and pepper as you like it.
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Best Practices for Watering Your Garden

As we brace ourselves for this week of 95+ degree heat and even more hot summer days ahead, it’s important to know how to water your garden effectively and efficiently. Fruit and vegetables cost a lot of water for a plant to produce, so watering adequately will promote healthy plants and an abundant harvest. Insufficient watering can cause problems in the garden. In addition to making your plants wilt, inadequate watering actually stresses plants, which can lead to unhealthy and unproductive plants that are more susceptible to pests. Below are five best practices to follow when watering your vegetable garden.

1. Know your plants

If you watch your plants, they will let you know when they need water. They wilt. Colors become dull. Furthermore, different plants have different water requirements. For example in a standard vegetable garden, onions do not need as much water as carrots, and carrots don’t need as much water as tomatoes, cucumbers or beans. Potatoes are very sensitive to not enough water, but peppers like it hot and dry.

The age of the plant also matters. The more mature and bigger the plant, the less water it requires compared to young and small plants. Young plants are tender and have small root systems whereas a mature plant will have a bigger root system to cover more area below ground. Always remember to water immediately after transplanting a young plant!

Well watered tomato plant

2. Know your soil

The ability of soil to store water is dependent on the soil texture, which is the ratio of sand, silt, clay and organic matter in a soil.  According to Washington State University Extension, a 5% increase in organic material quadruples the soil’s water holding capacity. Organic matter not only holds and stores water but also insulates the soil against heating and cooling. One of the easiest ways to increase a soil’s water holding capacity is to incorporate more organic matter in the form of compost.

Mulch (i.e., straw, grass clippings, woodchips, leaves, composted manure or compost) will also add organic matter to the soil as it decomposes while helping to smother weeds as well. Place a 1 to 2 inch layer of mulch on the soil surface around your plants or place mulch between plant rows. Start by using small amounts at a time so you don’t cause mold or fungus problems.

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3. Deep watering

Watering deeply generally means watering a plant so that the water soaks down to at least 8 inches below the soil surface. This encourages a plant’s roots to grow long and deep. The saying goes that one deep watering is much better than lightly, more frequent waterings. This is because brief waterings may not penetrate the soil and reach the roots. It also encourages shallow roots, which dry out easier and are more susceptible to stress.

Soak your garden once a week to a depth of 6-12 inches and don’t water again until the top few inches begin to dry out. If you’re not sure when you need to water again, use the finger test. For the finger test, stick your index finger in the soil, up to the knuckle. If the soil feels moist, there is no need to water. If it’s dry, it’s time to water again.

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4. Timing is everything

What time of day you water and how frequently you water is very important. The cool of the evening is the best time to soak or drip irrigate a garden, because this gives the soil and plants all night to absorb the water. Early morning is an ideal time for sprinklers. The leaves of a plant can still absorb the water in the cool of the morning but dry out during the day which minimizes any leaf molds or fungus.

Also, avoid watering when it’s windy. Since windy conditions increase evaporation, it is inefficient for plants to absorb water. In fact, windy conditions even cause evaporation directly from the leaves of the plant as well. If possible, give your plants extra water before or after a warm windy day.

5. Keep water on site

If you have a hard pan developing on the surface of your soil, it won’t absorb water well and instead run off and pool up in your garden path instead. Try loosening the top inch of soil around your plants with your fingers, a hand trowel or to help the soil absorb the water.

Also, try watering slowly or in several stages a couple minutes apart so that the soil has time to absorb the water. Build up small mounds several inches high with your hands around the edges of your garden bed or around individual plants. This will act like a moat or dam and help keep water where you want it–at the base of your plants.

Keep in mind that every garden and every garden plot is different, so we recommend trying a couple of these things to find what works best for your garden. If you have questions specific to your site, ask your community garden leadership committee or garden mentors. They are always willing to help!

Good luck and stay cool!

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April Showers Bring May Flowers…

Welcome back new and returning gardeners! 

We’re two weeks in, after faring an especially chilly Opening Day.  Missoulian gardeners are tough cookies, they took the cold winds in stride, showing up smiling and ready to dig into the season (no pun intended ;). Take a gander at your hardy selves below, and pat your backs on a such a successful start!

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Kelly finds surprises from last season in her plot at Milwaukee Trail.
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The crew is all smiles at Milwaukee Trail.
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Maria holding down the fort at Meadow Hill.
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The lovely ladies of the Milwaukee Trail Leadership.
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Amy and Maria warm up by the fire at Meadow Hill, lucky ducks.
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Leadership Committee Member, Emily Kern’s mother helps get things started at ASUM.
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ASUM, with 70 plots, is the second largest garden of the troop, making Opening Day an especially social event.
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New gardeners, new smiles at ASUM.
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This pic of Northside Leaders Brian and Joe definitely wasn’t staged  ;)
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Returning gardeners know the drill at ASUM.
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A rare moment of sunshine see these returning gardeners off at ASUM.

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New gardeners dig in at the Northside.

Whether you’re a new or returning gardener, it can be challenging to get back in the swing of things, especially after the distressingly long winter we’ve endured. But fear not, we’re here to help. Attend the Gardening 101 & Planning Workshop tomorrow, from 6:00 – 7:30, led by gardening-extraordinaire Patrick (our Community Garden Operations Coordinator)! Patrick will cover the basics, leaving you feeling ready and confident to dig in. The workshop will be held at the Providence St. Patrick Hospital healing garden, located at 902 N Orange St behind the Providence Surgery Center (Here’s a map).

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P.S. – it’s free! We hope to see you all there!

Also, check out these other gardening opportunities throughout the season. Keep checking the blog, our Facebook page and website, as well as your email and garden blackboards for additional events.

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And remember, April showers bring May flowers…  and besides, what’s better than a nice shower followed by a bask in the sun, all in the same hour?

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Head Starts With Starts

Patrick, the Community Gardens Operations Coordinator,  grew up in Wisconsin, and from day one wanted to be outside whenever possible. While earning his degree from the University of Montana, Patrick enrolled in the PEAS Farm class, and couldn’t give it up – staying for two semesters and a summer session. Through the PEAS Farm and his Environmental Studies Program classes, he’s decided he wants to keep working on local food efforts now that he has earned his degree. When he’s not digging in the dirt, he is hiking, biking or fishing with his dog, Lola.


With spring officially just around the corner, many of our garden crops will be getting off to an early start.  With our cold and lengthy winters in Montana, several crops that we love to grow and eat need to get a jump on the season.  Farmers, nurseries, and gardeners around the area are getting busy seeding and tending to our favorite plants.

Patrick 3While it gets nice and hot in Missoula, our nighttime temps in the late spring and early fall allow us a mere 120 frost-free growing days, on average.   Many of our favorite plants are capable of braving the cold, so we may choose to focus on these crops.   However, many others will wither away at the first sign of frost.  Extending our seasons by starting some of our plants in controlled environments like greenhouses, allows us to grow many crops that we otherwise simply couldn’t produce in our climate.  Others we can simply direct seed into the ground and will do great with our natural climate.

 

Early Start Recommended

Tomatoes                       Peppers

Onions                            Cabbage

Squash                           Cucumbers

Broccoli                         And More!

Can be Direct Seeded

Carrots                          Beets

Peas                               Radishes

Corn                              Most Greens

And More!

It is certainly possible to grow starts in our houses, utilizing sunny areas or even supplying supplemental lighting.  However, starting seeds at home can be surprisingly tricky. Tending to watering needs can be time consuming, and often our home starts don’t receive the adequate amount of light to sustain proper growth.  This often results in lanky, stunted, or otherwise stressed plants.  We want our starts to be as healthy and vigorous as possible when we plant them out. The process of leaving their comfortable, pampered lives in their climate controlled homes will be stressful enough; we want them to hit the ground strong.

Patrick 1Most homes are not designed with plant growth as their primary function, and most people’s days are already busy enough as it is.  For this reason, many gardeners decide to leave the starts to the professionals.  Greenhouses are designed for the sole purpose of promoting plant growth, and are maintained by folks who dedicate their days to ensuring successful starts.  Farmers markets and nurseries are great spots to look for strong and healthy starts to grow.  They are also great places to make sure you are picking the right varieties for your needs and wants.

But! If you want to hit the ground running and start those starts early yourself, it can be an incredibly fun and rewarding process.  There are a few things we need to consider when starting seeds at home.  We need to choose the right varieties for our climate and preferences; sauce tomatoes vs. slicing tomatoes, for example.  We need to sow the seeds indoors and re-pot if necessary at the proper planting time; we want them to have a good head start while not outgrowing their containers and becoming stressed. We want to let them “harden off” before transplanting to reduce shock by moving them into a cooler and less controlled environment.  This can be done using cold frames or floating row cover. (Both of these can be used to extend the season for bedded plants as well).  Lastly, we want to make sure that the beds and weather are suitable for the plants before we transplant them outdoors.  Check out the links below for some more information!

Garden “Calculator”

Helpful Hints

Cold Frame

Home Made Gifts: Holiday Hot Cocoa

Hot cocoa
Hot cocoa. Photo by Slice of Chic.

During the holiday season, I’m always grateful to receive homemade gifts. The hot cocoa mix recipe listed below is a perfect family activity and makes a tasty gift for friends and neighbors. Of course, it’s also perfect for placing in your own cupboard and enjoying during Missoula’s winter!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions:

Combine ¼ cup of the powdered milk with the cornstarch and cocoa powder in a small bowl. Pour into a pint jar or into two half pint jars. Pour sugar into the jar (or jars if making two). Combine the remaining ¼ cup of powdered milk and the cinnamon. Pour into the jar or jars. Add ½ cup of chocolate chips to the top of two jars or the entire cup if using one pint jar.

That’s all! This recipe doubles and triples very easily and is perfect for children to make as gifts.

To Serve: Pour contents of jar into a bowl and mix. When evenly blended, add back into jar. For a single serving, place 4 Tablespoons cocoa mix and 1 cup milk or water in a small pan. Stovetop: Heat milk and mix on medium until the chocolate chips melt, stirring occasionally. Whisk for 30 seconds or until smooth, pour into a cup and serve with whipped cream or marshmallows.

Mix and milk can be heated in a microwave. Place cup on a plate in case of the milk/water boils over. Heat for a minute and stir. Heat for another minute or two if needed, whisk and serve.

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Falling For Garlic

This week The Real Dirt is featuring a guest blog from Patrick, Community Gardens Operations Coordinator. Patrick grew up in Wisconsin, and from day one wanted to be outside whenever possible. While earning his degree from the University of Montana, Patrick enrolled in the PEAS Farm class, and couldn’t give it up – staying for two semesters and a summer session. Through the PEAS Farm and his Environmental Studies Program classes, he’s decided he wants to keep working on local food efforts now that he has earned his degree. When he’s not digging in the dirt, he is hiking, biking or fishing with his dog, Lola.


Fall can mean a sudden change of pace for those of us who spend time working in the dirt.  Our lives as well as those in our gardens undergo some major changes as we transition from the warmth of summer into Missoula’s cool and dark winter.   For many of us, this is a bittersweet time.  We will miss our time in the garden, fresh picked meals, and chatting with fellow gardeners.  But winter also offers a chance to reflect on the past season, plan for the next, and hunker down with a warm winter dish.

An oddball in our fall routine of closing our gardens down, putting our storage foods up, and settling into a new schedule is garlic.  This time of year, when all of our crops are reaching the end of their lives, or have already passed, another round of garlic is getting ready to grow.  We plant our garlic in the fall to overwinter so that it can begin to grow as soon as weather permits in the following spring.  Garlic can also be planted in the early spring as soon as the ground is workable.  However, bulb production seems to be greater when fall planted.  Also, fall planting is simply a much welcomed change of pace from our usual fall routines.

Planting Garlic

When planting garlic we do not plant seeds, we plant individual cloves.  The first step then is to harvest and cure your previous garlic crop.  Read Emy’s blog post about harvesting and curing for more details.

Since we produce our next garlic crop asexually through cloning, we want to make sure to choose the right cloves to plant for next year.   We want to choose cloves that exhibit traits that we like, and would like to continue to see in our crop.   So we don’t plant small cloves or cloves from heads that have rotten, because we don’t want small or rotting heads next season.  After the garlic has been cured, choose the cream of the crop; good looking cloves with desirable traits.

Choose cloves with desirable traits.
Choose cloves with desirable traits.

If you did not grow garlic this year, don’t worry!  Simply use garlic that you normally buy from the farmers market or grocery store.  (It is best to save cloves from a local garlic source, as you can be sure that they will grow well in Missoula!)

Once you have your chosen cloves, keep them in a dark, dry space until late fall.  I normally plant garlic in late October when the weather is getting cold yet the ground is still workable.  Garlic can be planted pretty close together; I usually plant cloves about 5-6 inches apart.  Make sure that the cloves are planted root end down, and cover with soil.photo-4

Your next round of garlic is now underway for next season!  Cover your garlic beds with a significant amount of straw.  The straw will help keep weeds down and also balance out temperature fluxes in the soil surface.photo-1

Next spring when things start to warm up, start pulling back/removing a portion of the mulch.  Leave some mulch in place as weed suppression (garlic has a small leaf area and is a poor competitor against weeds), but do be aware as too much mulch can cause rotting at the base.

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Tales of Pigweed

This week Kaya Juda Nelson writes about her work as an apprentice at Garden City Harvest’s Youth Farm, run in partnership with Youth Homes. After spending her freshman year at Boston University, a semester of her sophomore year in South America, and a semester of her senior year campaigning with a climate action organization in Denver, Kaya graduated from the University of Montana with high honors in Environmental Studies and a minor in Climate Change Studies. For the past year and a half, Kaya has also been part of a bluegrass band, Local Yokel, in which she plays the fiddle, banjo, writes, and sings. Here’s Kaya: 

We choose to farm because it connects us with our environment and offers a relationship to the cycles of the seasons. Farming feels great as we work our bodies and work the earth under the sun, in the rain, feeling the wind against our faces.  But even more than the connection to place and weather, this season working at the Youth Farm has affirmed my favorite relationship brought about by farming: the relationship with food.

After a morning of weeding and thinning the carrots or harvesting salad mix (a sometimes tedious and time-consuming task), a trio of young adults from various Missoula youth homes and an adult staff member (often myself) break to make the lunch for our 10-20 person crew.

We learn how to properly cook rice and lentils, what you can do with the abundance of radishes, how delicious raw kohlrabi can be, and the fact that cucumbers should never, ever, ever, under any circumstance be cooked. The first days we cook lunch I hear:

“I hate veggies”

“there’s no meat?!?”

“are we seriously eating this for lunch?”

By the end of the first meal, we have converted most of the youth into veggie lovers. I remember getting excited about having agency in the food I ate when I was in high school. Now, watching that agency develop in these adolescent faces as we make lunches each day, I relive it myself. Carrots and onions are chopped with confidence and chard is discovered to shrink when you cook it and sometimes the stir fries are too salty and sometimes the beets are horribly crunchy but the food education is palpable.

Zayne arranging CSA boxesAs you all may have read in Genevieve’s post, Zayne, one of our youth employees tells the story of discovering kale at a mobile market stand while living at the Council Groves apartments. He proudly declares himself as the kale kid, and always asks for an extra bunch to take back to the Tom Roy youth home where he lives, located adjacent to the farm. When his mother or grandmother is in town for a visit, he begs to take them a bouquet of the hearty leafy green. I see part of this as a simple fact that kale is delicious and has become nutritionally notorious both in the local and the mainstream food world, but you can also see Zayne’s pride in his cultivation of his favorite crop and his desire to share a tangible fruit of his labor.

The CSA is the other venue in which the Youth Farm employees have a chance to shine and pass along their thoughts and opinions on produce to the roughly 60 CSA members that come to collect their share each week. For a few weeks in late June, we offered pigweed in our CSA share. Yes, this is a weed that we harvest for our customers. We constantly battle pigweed as it grows rampant through the farm. When we learned from a visting Greek that it is delicious cooked in olive oil and lemon, we made lemons out of lemonade and added it to our CSA offerings.

Pigweed is amazingAs Zayne greeted the CSA customers that week with a giant box of pigweed, he spun the story of the Greek farmer into a personal tale of meeting this man and together sharing the delights of pigweed. This pitch was mostly fabricated, but Zayne encouraged our CSA customers to try this leafy weed with an unappetizing name in such a spirited and hilarious way, it didn’t matter whether it was factual. It was about a connection with this crop and with the CSA members.

We work with groups of young adults that have come from wide-ranging and diverse backgrounds, but who are all living in the Missoula Youth Homes. These teenagers are navigating the difficulties of adolescence, while living in homes that are not their own, and while I wish I could say that the farm provides a fairy tale solution, but I can’t. But when the rusty steel triangle that serves as a lunch bell is rung and the giant cast-iron pan of bok-choy is brought to the table, it is evident that change and connection are happening in ways I’m not always aware of, and the effort, joy, and learning put into the meals we share out here in the sun and rain and wind provides a sense of ownership and accomplishment for the employees of the Youth Farm.

Zayne and the Greek Farmer’s Pigweed

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb fresh pigweed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 T olive oil  salt to taste

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a pan and add pigweed (whole, not chopped).  Add lemon juice and stir until all the pigweed is covered with oil and lemon juice. Cover the pigweed until it has wilted slightly, then uncover and cook off any liquid that has accumulated. Add salt to taste. Enjoy!