Sep
08

Harvesting Chamomile

When I talk about the plants that I grow in my home garden, I often talk about WHY I chose each plant. I choose tomatoes because there is nothing better than a home-grown tomato, I chose basil and cilantro because they are herbs that I use often, and I choose peppers because they grow flawlessly and add color + flavor to my garden and my kitchen.

This is my first year growing chamomile, I chose it because it smells pretty, produces lovely flowers, and has a calming effect. One of my favorite tea blends, Chamomile Citrus from Mighty Leaf may have had an influence on me being drawn to chamomile.

Harvesting Chamomile

My chamomile plant started flowering long before I really knew how or when to harvest the buds. After my busy, travel-packed summer slowed down, I took the time to learn and was pleasantly surprised how stinking easy it is to harvest and dry the flower buds.

When the chamomile flowers are wide open, and the white petals are perky, it is the perfect time to harvest. In my photos, you can see that some of the white petals had begun to droop, at that point they are still harvestable however they won’t have as many essential oils to offer.

Harvesting Chamomile

Plucking the fully bloomed, tiny flowers away from their stems is easy, doesn’t take much effort. I used my thumbnail to get a clean cut right at the base of the flowers, and they all popped right off. Because it’s so pleasant and calming, I sniffed each flower bud as I plucked it. 

Now that I’ve begun harvest, I know that my chamomile plant will replace the plucked flowers with brand new ones to be harvested in the future.

My freshly plucked chamomile buds are sitting in a cool, dry place in my kitchen to dry out. Once dried, I will store the chamomile buds in an airtight mason jar until I’m ready to use them for tea. 

I take pride in having an abundance of dried herbs from my garden in the kitchen and my meals seem to be more rewarding when home-grown ingredients are used. I look forward to sipping home-grown chamomile tea on the upcoming chilled, autumn nights.

Harvesting Chamomile

Love

Crista


Aug
20

on growing radishes

A perfect morning for me is one where I can roll out of bed when I feel ready, step in to my flip flops after giving the pooch a quick hug, and going out in to the garden to see what happened overnight while I was asleep.

While still clothed in my pjs, I oftentimes catch myself pulling weeds before brushing my teeth, hanging herbs to dry before breakfast, and lounging in the hammock before it’s time to get ready for my workday.

One morning last week, early before temps reached unbearable warmth, I’d decided it was time to pull the radishes that had been steadily growing in the ground for about 6-7 weeks. I couldn’t get a close look at the tiny red bulbs below the surface of the soil, but I could see the greens were overgrown and flowering. Convinced that the greens were maturing much faster than the radish bulbs, I’d trimmed the overgrown steams and leaves a few times.

I should have done it sooner. I should have learned more about planting and harvesting radishes before dropping the tiny seeds in to the ground. The little package of seeds I’d received gave thorough instructions about placing each seed about 1-2 inches away from the next about 1/2 inch deep. Instead of following directions, I dumped the entire package of contents into the ground and hoped for the best. 

That little package also instructed me to harvest the plants within 30 days, I paid no attention assuming I’d just know when it was time.

My very first radish crop has offered me a few vital learnings, and I am grateful. One of those learnings is to appreciate EVERY single tiny seed and to not take any of them for granted – one tiny seed can produce a beautiful, bountiful fruit on it’s own. Because I did not space my seeds apart, many of the radishes I grew were long and narrow instead of plump and round – the crowding didn’t allow enough room for growth. 

on growing radishes

If I knew then what I know now, there are a few things I would do different:

1. I would space the radish seeds 1-2 inches apart.
2. I would only plant 15-20 radish seeds at most, any more would go to waste or cause over-crowding 
3. I would remove any rocks, sticks, or rubble in the ground prior to planing the radishes, which will allow them more room for growth and prevention deformation.
3. I would mark on my calendar the day my radishes were planted and the approximate day of harvest (based on the seed packets instructions)

Unfortunately, my very first radish harvest was good for nothing more than feeding the compost bin, HOWEVER I have planted more seedlings and am confident that I will harvest an edible crop this time around.

on growing radishes

A few dishes I hope to make with my home-grown radishes include Roasted Lemon, Potatoes, Radishes, and Olives, Fennel and Radish Salad, and Radish Leaf Pesto

Love

Crista


Oct
09

Today, it rained, and rained, and then rained some more. While I was chilly and felt “wet” all day long, I was thankful that the garden got some good ole’ rain water – it seems to have a different effect on the garden than hose water does – in a good way.

My garden is still producing a variety of peppers, tomatoes, and herbs but I’m not sure how much longer it’s going to last. My tomato plants are looking pathetic, some have died off due to whiteflies. The pepper plants are still holding on strong, and the herbs are doing the same. My broccoli, kale, and cabbage are all infested with aphids. I never did figure out how to get rid of them. I will definitely have to fight harder against them next year now that I know they’ll be a problem. Sigh. 

Because of the approaching end-of-season, I made sure to take some photos of the garden – they very well could be the last photos taken of the garden this year.

garden tomato

garden cherry tomato

garden amana orange tomato

garden cherry tomato

garden tomato

As you can see, I’ve still got a variety of tomatoes growing. I picked a bunch earlier in the week to make a Pink Pesto (recipe coming soon!) and another batch of Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette. I probably won’t use either one of them right away, I’m freezing them for a later date.

garden eggplant

FINALLY, eggplants! It took this long…..

garden chili peppers

garden pinot noir bell pepper

A pinot noir bell pepper and an orange jalapeño – I have no idea how I got a hold of these things – but they’re stinkin cool.

garden orange jalapeño pepper

garden pablano pepper

I’m hoping this rain will stimulate some growth for the weekend, I’m not quite ready for the season to end yet…. 

In other news, I’m looking to buy a house right now and I am adamant about finding a place with a big huge garden space – will you cross your fingers for me and wish me luck? The search has been tough, competitive, and stressful….

Love

Crista


Sep
10

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

The time of year when I have more tomatoes in the garden than I know what to do with has arrived. (yay!) 
I’ve compiled several tomato recipes but hardly have the time to make them all (let alone eat it all!) – You are ALL invited to dinner at my place ANYTIME. I need someone to help me eat all this yummy food I want to make.

Thank goodness I recently read a post about freezing whole tomatoes – it’s as simple as cutting the core out of the tomato and putting it in a ziplock freezer bag. I’ll have garden-fresh tomatoes to use all winter long! (yay!)

Cherry Tomatoes

For months, I’ve been dying to make this Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette with tomatoes from the garden. This quick recipe is perfect for anyone who has an abundance of cherry tomatoes because it is easy to prepare and can be used on several different dishes. I made a big batch of this vinaigrette with plans to freeze half the batch. 

The day I made this vinaigrette, I added it to a tomato/avocado/hummus wrap and it added a ton of flavor. This vinaigrette will also work well atop a chopped & roasted brussels sprout salad, or atop any savory salad for that matter. I may use it as a marinade for grilled veggies (kabobs??), or atop a grilled veggie dish (zucchini, for instance). A pasta, noodle, or quinoa dish would pair well with this vinaigrette as well. 

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 large shallots, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425º F.
  2. On a baking sheet, toss the tomatoes, shallots, and 1 tablespoon of oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. Roast for about 10 minutes. Toss, turn on the broiler, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the tomatoes blister and break apart.
  3. Let cool.
  4. Mix together the garlic, Dijon mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil.
  5. After the tomato-shallot mixture has cooled from hot to warm, toss with the vinaigrette. It will thicken slightly.

Cherry tomato Vinaigrette

recipe adapted from Food52

Love

Crista


Sep
04

Peach Rhubarb Crisp

I have mentioned my love (obsession) for Colorado peaches. At any given time over the last month r two, I’ve had at LEAST 5-6 Palisade peaches on hand. I’ve found several different ways to enjoy them: with vanilla yogurt, as a bedtime dessert, served with ice cream, and some days I’m in the mood to bite in to the juicy fruit and let it rip down my chin all messy-like – feels like summer time.

So, I had some rhubarb in the garden that I wasn’t quite sure how to use. Discussing with a friend, we both decided that we NEEDED to know what that rhubarb would be like when paired with Colorado peaches. Everyone is getting ready for “autumn” around here (is it football that everyone is so darn excited about??) so a “crisp” seemed appropriate. After my second batch of Peach Rhubarb Crisp (the first didn’t even last a full day), I’ll say that peach and rhubarb ARE a perfect pair. 

This “crisp” recipe is very similar to the crisp recipe I used in my Apple Pear Crisp. This recipe gets a lot of compliments, so you may want to bookmark it- using the same recipe, you can swap the fruit… guaranteed goodness.

Peach Rhubarb Crisp {vegan & gluten-free}
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 5 peaches, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup rhubarb, chopped
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • ¼ cup raw turbinado sugar
  • heaping ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup gluten-free (or all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup Earth Balance Butter, softened
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the peach slices and rhubarb in a large plastic bag or a large bowl, and sprinkle with lemon juice. Toss to coat with sugar, cinnamon, agave nectar, salt, and cornstarch.
  3. In a greased baking dish (approx 9×9) layer the peach slices and rhubarb. Set aside.
  4. To make the topping, mix brown sugar, oats, flour, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Add softened butter and stir until the mixture resembles a crumble.
  5. Distribute the oat mixture over the top of the fruit and bake until the fruit is soft and the topping is golden brown (approx 40-45 minutes)
  6. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Love

Crista


Sep
20

Peppers add sizzle and flavor to meals all around the globe but if your garden looks anything like mine, you’ve got more peppers than you know what to do with. We’ve grown a variety of peppers including jalapeno, bell peppers, pablano, and serrano peppers.

Pepper plants are my favorite plants to have in the garden because they are relatively easy to grow and they produce perfectly plump fruits. When planted in a site full of sun, and with regular deep watering, pepper plants will produce beautiful green, red, and yellow varieties.

 Harvesting these peppers promotes more fruiting, especially if you start harvesting at the beginning of summer. You can have an almost-continuous harvest from your pepper plants by picking the ripe fruits often. It seems as though every time I pay a visit to our 4 pepper plants, there is a new crop of green & red screaming “pick me, pick me!”

jalapeño pepperpepper harvestpepper harvestpepper harvestpablano pepper

I took a variety of jalapeño and serrano peppers to my mother-in-law and she showed me how to preserve the peppers for use throughout the winter. I was shocked at how easy this task was.

pepper paste

Preserve Your Peppers – Pepper Paste

What you need:

  • a variety of 10 ripe, fresh picked jalapenos & serrano peppers
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

What you do:

  1. Cut the stems off of your peppers and de-seed. If you choose to keep your paste spicier, you can use some of the seeds in your paste.
  2. Put your chopped peppers and olive oil in to a food processor and grind in to a paste.
  3. Put your paste in a sterilized ball jar or a used jelly jar. (in the photo, you can see we used a jelly jar)
  4. Store your paste in the refrigerator throughout the winter for use in a variety of dishes.

pepper harvest

Easy right? I’ve read through many different recipes that prompt you to roast your peppers prior to canning them, but I’ve chosen to keep my peppers raw. 

I’m anxious to use my peppers in a variety of dishes including:

Sweet Jalapeño CornbreadJalapeño Popper Cornbread Waffles (this could be made vegan), Cornbread Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers (with whipped Maple Butter?), Pineapple Basil (jalapeno) Salad, Pickled Jalapeños, Jalapeño Jam, Sweet and Sour Peppers

Love

Crista