Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nutty New Year

Since our Christmas Even tradition might be harvesting the nuts from now on, maybe our end of the year tradition will be shelling the nuts. I'm not sure why our winter holidays are so nut-centered now, but I'm going with it. Actually with Aidan home from school I'm doing whatever I can to keep him occupied and shelling nuts is very time-consuming, so it was a perfect afternoon job for him.

The nuts have been outside drying in the sun since Christmas Eve. They got nice and crispy and the leaves got very brown so they were very easy to pull off the shoots.

Aidan noticed that quite a few of the shells had holes in them and had no nuts inside. We spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what had eaten the peanuts, but couldn't come up with anything that made sense. We toyed with the idea of some sort of miniature burrowing elephant because that's what you do when you ponder these decisions with a 4-year-old.

After we'd discarded the plants and put all of the nuts in the basket, we brought them inside to shell them.

On a side note, Aidan visited santa twice this December - once with school, and once at the mall with us. Both times he asked Santa for the same two things: Pokemon cards and a Nutcracker. When we asked him why he wanted a nutcracker, he said "to crack nuts." Of course. How silly of me to ask why my 4-year-old wanted a nutcracker. So santa brought him a nutcracker in the shape of a British policeman and Aidan was over the moon. He had no use for the thing because we don't exactly keep buckets of in-the-shell nuts around the house, but Aidan was happy regardless.

Well wouldn't you know that as soon as we brought the bucket of peanuts inside Aidan happily ran over to his nutcracker and brought him over to the table. "This nutcracker sure will come in handy!" he said. Well he had a good point.

Aidan opened all of the nuts in the nutcracker and I did my share in my hands. We sorted the nuts into a little bowl and discarded the shells into another basket. I haven't seen Aidan this captivated with a task in a long, long time. Note to moms: shelling nuts with preschoolers is a killer activity.

I've had these fantasies about making my own peanut butter for the boys. So as the last peanuts were shelled I looked at the measley little harvest we brought in - and measured it.

We got about 3/4 cup of peanuts. How pathetic is that? All that planting, the hilling, the watering, the hurricanes, the over-watering, the hilling again... the harvesting, the drying, the shelling... and we have 3/4 of a cup. Wow gardening is not for the sane. Not at all.

But we will move forward and try and make peanut butter out of this measley little harvest and dammit the boys will like it and we will make this whole thing worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Nuts

We finally had some mad garden action in our very quiet December garden so I finally have something to post about. Today we decided to harvest our peanuts. It's Christmas Eve and Farmer B and I have been talking about our lack of Christmas Eve traditions and the idea of starting something new for our family. We came up empty and decided to harvest the peanuts instead. Could a Christmas Eve nut harvest be our new family tradition? I like the way it sounds.

I think our nuts should have been harvested a long time ago, but being new at this I wanted to err on the side of over-done nuts rather than under-done nuts. I read that the leaves on the peanut plants turn yellow when the plants are ready to be pulled and they only recently started to wither and turn yellow, so now seemed like the right time. Here they are with some radishes we pulled today too.

Harvesting nuts is much like harvesting potatoes, or so I'm told since I haven't grown a potato yet. You get your pitchfork and pop it under the peanut plant and sort of wiggle it a bit to loosen the soil. You have to dig down pretty deep so that you don't speer any of the nuts.
When you loosen the nuts you grab ahold of the plant and just wiggle and pull.
When it comes all the way out you can see the little peanuts hanging on to the little shoots that grew off all the yellow peanut flowers that grew on the plants.
I have no idea how many peanuts we ended up with, but we got bunches and bunches of them.
I read that you have to let them dry out outside for a couple of weeks until the plant gets all dry and crumbly. The peanuts should then just pull off the shoots quite easily.
So there you have it. A Christmas Eve Nut Harvest - a first for us. It's a given that our Christmas will be a little nutty so perhaps this is the perfect new tradition for our family.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Red Radish Salad

As you may have read, the first edible food we harvested from the garden was a row of radishes. And the problem became what on earth we'd do with them besides bung them on top of a salad. I felt compelled to actually try and enjoy the only fruits of our long garden labor. My friend Courtney found a Red Radish Salad recipe from Rachel Ray's website. I was game because it didn't have a lot of ingredients and sounded good. I made it last night and it was honestly one of the best-tasting little salads I've ever eaten. This should be a go-to recipe for any new gardener that successfully grows radishes. They're easy to grow so they're a good first-vegetable for us newbies, but then you have to figure out how to enjoy them. This recipe is it!!

Here's what you'll need: Sugar, lemon, sour cream, red radishes, golden delicious apples, European seedless cucumber, fresh dill, salt and pepper. Do you like how I laid it all out for you like the ingredients are so exotic that you need your hand held to figure them out? Good. I will now continue to insult your intelligence by photographing the steps. Yes, I was just that excited about the damn radishes. Here we go:

First you quarter and core two apples and slice them into thin slices. (Now that I've done this, I'd say to do this last because the apples brown quickly).

Next you thinly slice your radishes - the real live radishes that you actually grew in your garden that you're so happy about - those radishes.

Then you thinly slice one-half of your Euro-cuke. I'm sure you could do this with an American cuke, but European cucumbers are just so much more refined.

Chop up some dill - about 2 tablespoons. You just can't have too much dill. Feel free to add about 3-4 tablespoons like I did because more dill is the only dill.

Then get a large bowl and mix up the juice of one lemon, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 cup of sour cream. We used reduced fat sour cream to make it a bit healthier. The bowl you see pictured is not a large bowl. I decided a small bowl would work. Then when I dumped all the chopped up food in it, it didn't fit. So definitely get a large bowl.

Finally add in your radishes, apples, cucumbers and dill and toss to coat thoroughly and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (This would be the large bowl).

I just couldn't believe how great it tasted! Farmer B got home from a long day of work and turned his nose up at the funky-looking salad in the fridge. Next thing I know he's inhaling it and raving about how great it is. He said it's one of the best salads he's had. Farmer B is a manly-man, so him happily snarfeling down a Red Radish Salad and raving about it is huge. It's sort of sweet like a fruit salad, but the dill and radishes add a very nice bite to it. Now I'm no chef, but this was so tasty and so easy to make. If you can chop things up and stir stuff together, you're golden.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Free Rice

Since I'm not planting or harvesting right now, I thought I'd focus on something sort of garden-related that's a great cause too. At www.FreeRice.com you can play a fun vocabulary game that tests your intelligence and donates 20 grains of rice to help end world hunger for each answer you get correct. Since its launch in October 2007, FreeRice has donated more than 53 billion grains of rice and fed more than 2 million hungry people.

If you're not a speller, but still like the idea of the site, click on the "subjects" button on the menu bar at the top of the screen. You can pick a different subject to be tested on from art to chemistry and algebra to geography. Each time you get an answer right, they donate 20 grams of rice. Just this morning before breakfast I donated about 300 grams of rice.

I know a lot of us say we're going to do something positive each year, especially around the holiday season, but life gets in the way and we forget. If you're reading this blog, it's proof that you have plenty of free time to play on the computer. Why not spend 5 minutes on FreeRice and make a small difference?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December Harvest

Instead of writing a length the details of my absence again, I think I'll just admit flat out that now that it's the holiday season and we keep having family in town and life is just so busy, I am finding it hard to keep up with everything. Since something has to suffer, it's bound to be the blog. Luckily not much is going on in the garden, so I haven't had much to report.

Until today.

Today I decided we'd harvest one row of radishes and half a row of carrots. I did a craptacular job of thinning the carrots so I knew we'd get some funky looking roots on those things. I know that next time I do carrots I'll do a raised bed so I can assure the soil won't be too hard packed and weird for them to grow down.

The boys were fascinated with picking the radishes. I think they were as shocked as I was that we actually grew something that looked like it was supposed to look. We have two rows of radishes and we pulled up one row. We didn't do both rows because I have no idea what on earth I'll do with these radishes since it's not really salad weather right now. Although my friend Courtney sent me a very yummy sounding radish recipe that I'll try out with this bunch and report back with the scoop.

We brought the carrots and radishes inside and cleaned them up to put in the fridge. I've heard that you can eat radish greens and carrot greens, but it didn’t sound too appealing to me. When I'd trimmed them up I went out front and tossed the leftovers into the front yard. I assume some deer or rabbits will enjoy them tonight. Our front yard is like a Motel 6 for deer. Often when Farmer B returns home in the wee hours of the morning he counts up to 20 sleeping deer curled up on our front yard fast asleep.

My carrots do look a bit weird and they all have sunburning. Living in Florida I expect to have to put sunscreen on everything to prevent sunburning, but who knew it related to carrots as well? I read that sunburning causes green tops on the carrots and an off flavor and dark green pieces in the cooked product. You're supposed to cut away the green portion and use the rest of the root. When the tops are healthy, sunburning can be avoided by pulling a small amount of loose soil up to the row when the roots are swelling (about 40 to 50 days after planting). I suppose that makes sense. The tops are exposed so it does make sense to pile loose soil on top. Lesson learned.
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