Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ah, the tomato...

Just a note asking you to follow The No-Till Gardener on Facebook. Stay tuned for a giveaway when we hit the 100 FB likes mark!  We have a ways to go...

Perhaps it should be "Ah, the Tomato!! We love us some tomatoes and tomato products around here. We use about 50 quarts of home canned tomatoes and sauce each year -- hence the double exclamation point rather than the boring elipses in the title.  

Regardless, the tomato harvest is finally coming in. As you can see, there are quite a few varieties involved.  This year I think I planted around 12 plants (it's a little lame that I don't know exactly how many I planted).  This doesn't count the dozen or so that  I started in my Aero Garden.  Roma, Early Girl, Black Crimm (just for fun), and the wonderful Mortgage Lifter (and an as yet to be determined variety or two). I also purchased a grafted heirloom variety (Calabrese I believe it's called) that is in a huge pot out by the pool along side three gorgeous artichoke plants and a brown turkey fig.  This dubious variety list does not include all the volunteer Juliette's and Roma's  (I think that's what they are anyway)that have popped up here and there. At last count, there is only one bed that does not have some type of tomato growing away.  Only the Agrabond-hooped cabbage bed has escaped the nightshade invasion.  

Heirloom Black Crim - notice the black spot on the leaves.

Volunteer tomatoes are a sweet little game of gardening Russian roulette.  They may set up shop in the strangest places but I never have the heart to tear them out because they have such a strong survival ability.  They are little gifts from nature that keep on giving. They are also extremely hardy or they wouldn't appear year after year, of their own volition. I try to save a few seeds from each variety for starting and proper planting the next year. 

In years past, most of the tomatoes used in the 50 quarts of tomatoes and various tomato products were purchased from the grower and then processed at home.  Standing at the sink, steam rising as we peeled and filled jar after jar... then processed and cooled before storage. Now, thanks to my prolific N-TG, I don't even have to purchase a single tomato, not to mention peel before processing.  My little organic garden takes away the worry of wondering just exactly what pesticides the grower may have used.  Now I wash, plop in the jars, add salt and a bit of citric acid, and process.  
Salsa, chili, tomatoes with basil, and yellow tomatoes for lighter sauces, etc.

I am battling some black spot on some of my tomato plants.  The fact that I plant them so closely doesn't help. And we, like the rest of the eastern US, have had an inordinate amount of rain. It's been pretty darn soggy - perfect conditions for some pesky problems to arise.  Thicker mulch would have been a good idea... I think I'll put all the tomatoes in one of the new larger end beds next year. 4x12 should hold quite a few plants with room to spare. That is unless I get carried away again...

For a great, quick pasta sauce recipe, using some of your bountiful harvest of the red globe of goodness visit my other website,!

What's ready to harvest in your garden? What tomato varieties work best for you?

Now... get out there and get your hands dirty!
All Content ©2011-2012 by The No Till Gardener and Equimage® Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

NOOOOOO more snow!

The garden in winter...

We're expecting another four to six inches of snow! Five days of unrelentingly gloomy, grey skies, followed by one tantalizing partially sunny day. Now, four to six inches of snow!  It's March for pete's sake. Spring is right around the corner -- technically -- a couple of weeks away. And, yet, more snow.  At least we're not in Minnesota...

I've been tinkering with my garden layout this year, using a fun FREE gardening layout tool from  Currently, I have four 4x8 beds.  I'm thinking of closing off the ends with additional 4x12 beds, connecting the northernmost beds together, and adding a small center raised bed on the diagonal (can't be well-represented here)  -- about 3x3.  This would increase my usable gardening area to 289 square feet! Whoo hoo! Here's a screenshot of my plan.  I have the hay, straw, and lumber.  Just need the time -- and A FEW NICE, SUNNY DAYS! 

I've been slowly sorting through my considerable seed stash. Like most February Junkies, I've purchased this and that interesting seed from a few purveyors of fine organic seeds.  I also stopped by the garden center the other day to look at  potato sets. I've come across a great idea from Growing Lots Blog about growing potatoes in towers created from old fence wire (I have a rusty roll just itching for repurposing), straw (a no-till gardener's best friend, next to moldy alfalfa hay) and compost (something of which I have in abundance). My plan is to create four of these potato towers and place one on each corner of my garden. That's the plan anyway... 

Time to plant a few things under the hoops... Collards, Kale (two to three types), garlic, lettuce carrots, chard, beets, bok choy, mustard, turnips, and radishes -- lots of radishes. I may add a layer of row cover just beneath the plastic hoop cover. Did you know that each layer of cover you add give you another USDA zone, or so. So adding a layer will give my beds about 20 degrees.  

Do you miss the smell of moist soil, getting your hands dirty in the garden?  If so, check out the Digging In radio program every Wednesday from 4-5 pm on WAIF Radio.  You can listen in on-line, via their live stream...

I'd bet that there is a local gardening radio show near you. If you find one, let me know. I love spreading the word about good gardening media!

Here's to dreaming of getting out there and getting our hands dirty!

Now, get out there and get your hands dirty! 

All Content ©2011-2012 by The No Till Gardener and Equimage Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 15, 2012

Peas please -- time for peas!

Finally, it's time to harvest some produce!  This is when my gardening efforts become really exciting.  I can finally see, and feel, the fruits of my no-till labor.

First on the list were peas. My peas were so prolific that they created a screen on my trellis!  I'd put picking them off for a bit too long because I was so busy with professional commitments.  But at last,  the peas are picked and a recipe hunt ensued.

I wanted something that would use these beautiful peas to their full freshness -- something to really accentuate their pea flavor.  I have a recipe of my own in mind and have saved a portion of peas for just such an experiment -- the results of which I will post, with photos, as soon as possible. But being the impatient type, I wanted to eat so I began the hunt through my favorite food blogs and  ran across a recipe called Linguine with Pea Pesto from The Smitten Kitchen. It's a keeper.

I'm taking the liberty of posting it again here, with a few changes in technique. There are some great photos of the finished dish on the the Smitten Kitchen website... I didn't take any because we were in too much of a hurry to eat!

If you have peas to pick in your no till garden or traditional garden, give this recipe a try and --  Enjoy!

Linguine with Pea Pesto

1 1/2 cups (from approximately 1 1/2 pounds peas in pods) fresh pea or a 10­ounce package frozen peas, defrosted 
1 small garlic clove, minced 
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup (1 1/8 ounces) finely grated parmesan cheese 
1/4 teaspoon table salt, plus more for pasta water 
1/3 cup olive oil 
12 ounces dried linguine
6-8 leaves of fresh basil leaves torn or sliced into chiffonade.

If using fresh peas, prepare a large bowl filled with ice water. Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes (this leaves them with a bit of structure). Drain peas then add them to the ice bath (if using) and drain again. If you haven’t used an ice bath, let your peas cool to lukewarm before making the pesto.

If using frozen peas, rinse the peas under hot running water until just thawed. Drain well.

Set aside 1/2 cup of your cooked/thawed peas. Whirl the remaining cup of peas in the work bowl of a food processor with garlic, pine nuts, 1/3 cup parmesan and salt until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil. 

Cook linguine until al dente. Reserve about two cups pasta cooking water (yes, this is a lot, the pea pesto will be surprisingly thick) then drain linguine and return it to pot. Over moderate heat, toss pasta with pesto, reserved peas and as much reserved pasta water as needed to smooth and distribute pesto; let cook for one minute so that the pesto adheres. Adjust salt to taste, add freshly ground black pepper if desired. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh herbs, if using, and remaining parmesan for passing.

Now, get out there and get your hands dirty! All Content ©2011-2012 by The No Till Gardener and Equimage Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lunch from the Garden: Irene's Egg Salad...

Lunch from the Garden:  Irene's Egg Salad...

One of the joys of having a garden is knowing that right outside is the freshest, most organic produce there is.  And, it's lunchtime.  I have radishes in the garden.  I also have some beautiful early arugula.  I have a few hard-boiled eggs in the fridge.  And, it's time for lunch. I think it's time for some of my mother Irene's Egg Salad!

My mother Irene was a fantastic cook!  Ask anyone who knew her. She was a woman of very strong opinions, unchangeable convictions with a passionate and sometimes volatile temper. But she showed her love through cooking and she was one heck of a cook!

A wonder in the kitchen, my mother could whip up a damn near wonderful meal  (a term my father coined for the delicious meals my mother would whip up from just a few inexpensive ingredients -- or as he said, ... from damn-near nothing) in nothing flat.  Soups, stews, baked goods, potato pasta little dumplings like gnocchi that would melt in your mouth. The mixture of little potato dumplings, crisp bacon, browned onion and golden sauteed cabbage is sublime! This perennial family favorite that we called halushki, was always served in the winter when it was cold outside. (I'll post this recipe after the first frost, when the chill is in the air.)

Another quick fixer upper was her egg salad.  A simple mixture of chopped hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced celery, good quality mayonnaise, and Laury's Seasoned Salt (had to be Laury's Seasoned Salt to make the flavor just right).  I grew up on this lemony yellow concoction.  Usually it was slathered onto good old white bread before anyone knew the value of whole grain,  or plopped onto a ripe, juicy cored tomato that was sliced almost through and topped with a little more Laury's Seasoned Salt for good measure.

Some people put dill, capers, grated onion, or sweet pickle relish in their egg salad.  Not my mom and generally not me.  I like to be able to taste the egg.  I love the savoriness of the celery as it crunches in my mouth. Nope, my mom's egg salad stands on it's own two (l)eggs.  And, that's the way I like it!

Around here, if you simply must add something, try using the egg salad is as a topping for fresh arugula from the garden, or on sprouted grain bread with a few chopped radishes thrown in.  Any way you eat it, it's delicious.

To some, this recipe may not be blog worthy, but to me, it's just one more piece in the puzzle of my childhood.

Irene's Egg Salad

Serves 1-2 

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
one rib of celery, washed and thinly sliced crosswise 
1 Tbs good quality mayonnaise (like Dukes or Hellman's. It's actually quite good with Trader Joe's reduced fat vegan mayo -- go figure)
Laury's seasoned salt - to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, until well blended. Add a sprinkling of seasoning salt, mixing, tasting, and adding a little more until seasoning preference is reached.

Serve on bread, toast, salad greens, or wedged ripe tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little more salt if desired. Enjoy.

Now, get out there and get your hands dirty! All Content ©2011-2012 by The No Till Gardener and Equimage Ltd. All Rights Reserved