Easy Vegetable Stir Fry

This week’s CSA was pretty light due to the weather.  I received an acorn squash, tomatoes, apples, green peppers, and eggplants.  I kept the acorn squash, tomatoes, apples, and one of the eggplants.  I gave all the peppers and the bigger eggplant to my co-worker.csa-week-20

Though the CSA was not very plentiful, there were four plus days of rain that helped my garden a lot.  I started a fall garden with only a few things.  My Brussels sprouts are starting to grow and I also planted carrots, beets, and broccoli.  I hope the weather does not cool off too quickly for them.

For the recipe below, I used beans from last week’s CSA as well as a bag of the yellow beans I had frozen.  Kennett Square, a small town in Pennsylvania, is the mushroom capital of the world.  You know you’re in mushroom country when you can smell the manure.  I love mushrooms and they grow year round so they are always available at the grocery store.  The only ingredients in the sauce that are local are the honey and garlic.  However, this is a great recipe and it is extremely versatile.  You can use any veggie that is in season.  You can throw in your favorite meat if you’d like.  Serve it over rice, eat it plain, or serve it over noodles.  I like mine on rice with a little parmesan cheese on top.  What’s your favorite stir fry?

Easy Vegetable Stir Fry

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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Ingredients

    Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ red pepper flakes (optional)
  •  

    Vegetables:

  • 1 lb beans
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 16 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Mix sauce ingredients.  Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil over med-high heat and add the veggies.  Stir fry about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the sauce and continue to cook until the sauce is reduced.

A Beginner Locavore’s Guide to Surviving Pennsylvania’s Winter

Pennsylvania in the fall is very pleasant, albeit chilly.  The weather will soon be cold enough for sweaters.  I am very tempted to wear leggings and long sweaters all fall and winter if I can get away with it.  Cooler weather means layers and finding other ways to keep warm.  Once winter hits, the crisp, cool weather of the fall is contrasted with much colder temperatures and even snow.  I do not mind fall, but I hate Pennsylvania winters.  It’s funny because my family is from here and my ancestors are from here, but somehow I did not develop a tolerance to the cold.

Gardening slows down and there are less options for food local food sources in the winter.  What’s a locavore to do in Pennsylvania in the winter?  Plan ahead!  While some varieties of greens and cabbage family members can be grown in cooler weather, prepping and storing food for the winter can add variety to meals.

There are many vegetables available now that can be blanched and frozen for use in the winter.  This is precisely what I did with the yellow beans and Swiss chard from the CSA from week 17.  Check out this article on the science and methods behind blanching and freezing vegetables.

For the yellow beans, I chopped them in 1-2” pieces before blanching for 3 minutes.  I then rinsed them under cold water and allowed them to cool and air dry.  I then divided them into quart sized freezer bags. 20160916_085347

For the Swiss Chard, I roughly chopped it and blanched it for 5 minutes.  Like the yellow beans, I rinsed it under cold water to cool it.  I towel dried it to remove excess moisture.  I divided the stems and leaves into quart size freezer bags.20160916_083741

Don’t forget to label your frozen vegetables so you don’t forget what they are!

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First Year of Gardening Update

I haven’t given up on my garden, but I have not been taking very good care of it.  A garden is something that needs nurturing and constant attention.  One day of skipping watering or not picking a weed and it quickly becomes unmanageable.20160825_102638

My broccoli never grew so I pulled that up.  I have three carrots that are still growing.  I completely forgot that I planted fennel.  The neighborhood groundhogs ate much of my Brussel sprouts.  I was looking forward to them.20160825_102535

One bell pepper grew on my pepper plant.  That one was not my fault.  It was entirely too hot for it to grow well.  It was also too hot for my cucumbers.  I picked three before the plant yellowed.  I probably could have watered it more, but again, I just let it go.

The groundhogs got to my cantaloupe as well.  It was doing great, but an annoying little critter decided to help itself to the fruit.

The tomatoes and herbs are doing well still.  Most of the herbs have gone to seed at this point in the growing season.20160825_102554

My first year gardening had plenty of ups and downs.  From pest control to hot weather, I learned a lot including:

  • Water, water, water!  Plants need water to survive and won’t do well without it.
  • Pest control.  My grandfather helped me with pest control.  There are many different methods to keep bugs out of the garden and it is important to control pests before they take over.
  • Pick and prune.  Picking herbs and vegetables at their peak keeps the plants growing.  Pruning dead leaves and trimming plants that have gone to seed with prolong the garden season.

While the gardening season is not over yet, my garden is about done as far as harvesting goes.  I will have herbs and tomatoes for a few more weeks before winter sets in.  Next year, I hope to have learned enough to grow more vegetables and take better care of my garden.  This spring and summer was very hot so hopefully next year, the weather is also better.

Take good care of your garden and it will take good care of you.

CSA Week 8

Who gets a sinus infection in the middle of July?  I do, apparently.  I have been using eye drops, nasal spray and breathe-rite strips, drinking Echinacea tea with honey, taking hot showers, and taking medicine.  I have even ordered a humidifier.  I am starting to feel a little better, but it was not a pretty sight for a few days.

What is a pretty sight is this week’s CSA.  This week’s CSA contained sweet corn, zucchini, Methley plums, blueberries, fennel, and spring onions. 20160712_121654-1

I have a plan for the fennel, so hopefully once I have recovered 100%, I will post that recipe. My grandfather’s garden is full of zucchini, so I gave my co-worker both zucchinis from the CSA.  The plums are sweet and juicy even though they are little.

Since I haven’t been feeling well, I have been keeping my diet fairly simple, but I have still managed to eat well.

One tasty recipe you can make with sweet corn is called Elotes.  There are different variations, but I like mine with mayonnaise, chili powder, and Parmesan cheese.  It can be a little messy, but it is very delicious.20160711_105145

Last week, I helped my grandparents with their senior Bichon, Bitsy.  To thank me, my grandfather made my Nona’s recipe of beets and potatoes.  It is served cold and sprinkled with parsley.  It is one of my favorite beet dishes.  The beets, potatoes, and parsley all came from his garden.20160712_134830

My garden is doing well.  I have a few cucumbers and a cantaloupe growing.  I realized with this week’s CSA that the fennel in my garden still has a lot of growing to do.  Right now, it is just a little sprig.  The tomatoes have not been liking the heat so what is growing is still green, but hopefully soon, I will have some fresh red tomatoes.

Lemon Balm Vinaigrette

I highly recommend growing lemon balm in a container otherwise it can quickly grow out of control and over run your garden. Case in point:2016-06-15 09.55.05.jpg
Lemon balm makes a great insect repellent. It also makes a very tasty tea. This was fine until I realized I have more than enough lemon balm to make pitchers of tea for everyone in my neighborhood. I began to brainstorm other ideas to use at least of portion of my lemon balm jungle.
Homemade salad dressings are simple and clean. I also have oregano and garlic growing in my garden so I combined them with the lemon balm and few other ingredients to create this refreshing vinaigrette.
Serve it over vegetables, pour it on a salad, or marinate a chicken before popping it on the grill. I combined all of the ingredients in a jar with a lid and simply shook it to combine everything. As with all vinaigrettes, you may see some separation. Just give the jar another shake and the dressing is good to go!
P.S. I am trying out a short code for formatting the recipes, let me know if you like it!

Lemon Balm Vinaigrette

  • Time: 20mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2016-06-14 15.02.13

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped or dried lemon balm
  • 1 clove fresh minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Combine all and shake well.


Note: This can be stored in the refrigerator up to one week.

An Interview With My Grandfather, the Gardener

GrandfatherintheGardenLeonard da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”  The same hold true for the garden.  It is a constant work in progress.  The idea in your head may never be fully realized.  I have learned a lot already and the season isn’t over.  Given my lack of success with much of what I am growing, I decided to interview my hardworking grandfather to see what makes him such a great gardener.

When did you start gardening?

When I was six years old.  A farmer would come with his mule and hand plow.  I would ride on the sled as they broke up lumps of dirt.  My grandmother was a great gardener.  My grandfather wasn’t, he was a stone mason.  As the years passed, my dad was the gardener.  I am 86 years old and still garden.  The only time I didn’t garden was the four years I was in the Navy.

How did you learn to garden?

I worked on my dad’s garden, spading, etc.  I watched and learned.

What do you like the most about gardening?

I like harvesting the most.  I like tomatoes, potatoes, peas, lettuce, and spinach the best.

Which is your least favorite thing to plant?

I don’t like to plant carrots because of pests.

What’s something you should always grow in your garden?

Beans, they put nitrates in the ground.

What have you been least successful growing?

I never had much success starting tomatoes or peppers in the house.  My sense of humor has been greatly enhanced by buying plants.

What do you use to keep out the wildlife?

I have a fence and mesh surrounding the garden.  However, deer still manage to hop the 4’ fence.  I also keep a BB gun handy (just to scare the critters, not hurt them).

Have you ever had a bad year gardening?

Weather can make for a bad year.  I dislike early frosts and wet springs.

Do you save any of your seeds?

I save the bean seeds, but the rest I buy every year.  The Italian Pole Beans were brought here after WWI.  A woman snuck them in in her pocket.  She shared them with my grandmother who shared them with my dad who shared them with me.

What are some general tips you have for a new gardener?

Use hand tools, no mechanical devices.  That way you can appreciate the dirt and see what you’re doing.  Apply organic mulch when you’re spading and test the soil for acidity.  You should water any transplants bought in the store.  I only use Sevin for pests, no other chemicals.

Do you have any tips for dealing with hot weather?

In severe dry weather, water plants with a watering can between 6am-9am.

What tips do you have for harvesting vegetables?

Harvest them when they’re ready, don’t let them grow old on the vine.

Do you use mulch in your garden?

I mulch during the growing season with mushroom soil from a local nursery.  I spade it under in the fall.  It keeps the ground pliable.  I use lime and 10-10-10 fertilizer when planting.  I like to use bagged commercial manure.  You get a lot of weeds using fresh manure.

Do you compost?

I use compost bins.  Don’t put meat or bones in it.

Is there anything you don’t grow anymore?

I don’t grow corn anymore.  It gets too hot and dry in the summer.  I buy it from local produce stands.

Do you have anything else to add?

I love gardening because nobody bothers you for anything…They’re afraid I’ll put them to work.

CSA Week 1

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I picked up my first share from the CSA today from Strite’s Orchard.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  CSAs are a way for local farmers to share their harvest with members.  A CSA member typically pays a fee up front for a certain number of shares and each week receives a share from the farm’s harvest.  Some CSAs may even include eggs, dairy products, or flowers.

The CSA program from Strite’s consists of 26 weekly boxes of in season fruits and vegetables.  Each box contains 6-7 different items.  Because of the rain we have been having in the area, the CSA at Strite’s started a week later than anticipated.  In addition to a four pack of Impatiens, this week’s box contained:

  • Radishes
  • Asparagus
  • Spring Onions
  • Kale
  • Spinach

The Strite family, who started farming in this area in 1843, has a 300-acre farm where they sell produce and baked goods, as well as milk, grass-fed beef from another local farm and more.  Throughout the growing season they sometimes have something called “pick your own” where you get to go out into the field and pick produce items, such as strawberries, pumpkins, etc.  It is only about a five-minute drive from my house so I love to support it.  There are also other pick up locations throughout the area to make it convenient for community members to participate.  One of the employees at the farm even sends out a weekly newsletter with recipes that include the produce received for the week and other farm information.

Find a local farm in your area to see if they have a CSA at LocalHarvest.