Friday, November 15, 2013

Roast tomatoes to bring out the flavor

In a recent post I said our late season tomatoes tasted good, even though they looked bad. But that's before I picked a few that weren't quite as delicious as I had hoped.  The season may be over now, but I still have a few last tomatoes ripening in a bag. I can almost guarantee that they won't be good to eat without some doctoring. It is especially true for the Japanese oxheart variety, a sort of pink plum tomato that we planted for the first time this year. They just didn't turn out well, even before the frost. But when they are tossed in the oven for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, with a splash of olive oil, salt and garlic, the mediocre, mushy tomatoes are transformed into fragrant, flavorful, juicy treats. I've been serving them over pasta with a little grated Parmesan. Mmm.
Roasted tomatoes from the garden with garlic, salt and peppers.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cold weather could spell end of the harvest

The spring-like fall has been great for our tomato plants. Stubbornly barren all summer, they sprang into action in September and have been producing fruit ever since. But with the mercury suddenly dropping and the threat of frost, the late tomato surge may be for naught. That big fat Brandywine beefsteak below may end up as a fried green tomato.
This time of year is always one of life and death in the garden, with new flowers sprouting beside dry brown leaves. I am always optimistic and believe that the growth cycle will continue endlessly, until the first frost arrives.    

This Brandywine may never ripen

Maybe these black cherries will turn rosy in a paper bag

Lonely Serrano pepper is ready to eat

My Red Russian kale will keep growing, even in colder weather

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Not pretty, but late season tomatoes taste good

We were shut out all summer, but now our tomato plants are giving us a little fruit. They don't look terribly attractive. They're cracked and pocked. They're not very red. Still, when you cut them open and take a bite, they're pretty tasty. They don't have the flavor of juicy, mid-summer tomatoes, with that perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. And they're smaller by far. But they're still better than anything you can get in a store.  Nothing is ever as good as homegrown. So, thank you tomato plants, for finally coming through. Better late than never!
Cherokee Purple tomatoes

Meager harvest better than nothing!

Friday, September 20, 2013

More fun with Serrano pepper recipes

Our Serrano pepper plant finally offered up its last fruits on the weekend. But the cooking is hardly done. I have dozens of them in the fridge. A few weeks ago, I made these roasted chiles with a recipe suggested by my friend Kim in Texas. Eat one of these babies and it will burn your face off! Really. Another idea, chop up one or two of them to add to dishes that need some spice. Though they're usually picked green, I could not keep up with them and some ripened to a rosy red. They're still hot as...
Freshly washed peppers from the garden
Flatten the peppers with a large knife; be sure to wear gloves or you might get hot hands

Coat with oil (I used canola) and saute in a skillet on med/high heat

When the skin is browned and bubbled (on both sides), they're ready to eat. But proceed with caution!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ripe tomatoes at last

Tomatoes! We've finally got some tomatoes! If this were July, we'd be thrilled. But it has taken until September to finally see a ripe tomato. Well, better late than never. These black cherries will be sitting in a salad by later tonight.

Some of the beefsteaks are coming along too. Maybe by the time we're back from vacation next week, an heirloom Cherokee Purple (above) or Brandywine (below) will be ready to pluck. 
We're still waiting for Aunt Ruby's German Greens (below) to ripen. They get to be a deeper shade when they're ready to eat.

All told, we won't get much of a harvest, but for all the trouble of growing these puppies from seed to vine, at least we'll get a small taste of deliciousness for fall.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Recipes starring Serrano chilies

Sure I'd like to be cooking with tomatoes about now, but since our tomato harvest was a bust  (I'm still holding out hope for the green fruit that has finally sprouted on our vines) I've started preparing some fun dishes with our Serrano peppers. We have one very productive plant, and faced with an abundance of hot chilies, I began seeking out recipes calling for them. I found one for Chicken Enchiladas Verdes at Simply Recipes through Tastebook (my favorite food app). I'm new to cooking Mexican food (though not eating it) so it was a fun experience and it turned out to be a tasty--and spicy--meal.  Fresh corn salad with cucumber, cherry tomato (from a farm stand), red onion, cilantro and a mustard vinaigrette  made the perfect side dish.  Next, I will try my own hot sauce with a recipe from my friend Kim in Tejas. I can already feel the burn!
Oh, p.s., if you are cooking with hot peppers be sure to wear gloves! I got a case of hot hands last week that kept me up half the night. After trying soap and water, aloe, olive oil, and a few other Web remedies, I rubbed ripe banana all over my hands and the burning finally subsided. Maybe the enzymes in the fruit neutralized the capsaicin. I'm just glad it worked.
Yummy chicken enchiladas made with my Serrano chilies

Monday, August 19, 2013

Blueberry bird feeder

That didn't take long! I removed the nets from my blueberry bushes and within days the Mockingbirds were back. I woke this morning to the sound of chirp chirp.
I thought they'd left town since I hadn't seen or heard from them since one had slipped under the net and I had to help it get out. That was a few weeks ago.But these are persistent little buggers. As I peered out my window, I saw the grey bird on the terrace railing, berry in beak. It did a head tilt, a quick swallow and off it went, laughing, I'm sure.
Well, it's end of season and there are just a few berries left so what the heck. Go to town little critters. Enjoy the fruits of my labor!
This Jersey berry bush was netted last week. Now it's fair game for the birds.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Green tomatoes

Finally, we have tomatoes. Tiny green ones, that is. This will go down as the worst summer on record for our garden. Our tomato plants just never took off. We were a little late getting them in their pots this season, planting them all by mid-June. But I thought they'd catch up. They should be tall and full by now. Instead, the poor things are thin and spindly and they haven't produced at all.The rainy June didn't help.Nor did the steamy July. Our harvest should be rolling at this point, but instead our plants have just begun to fruit. If we're lucky, if we don't get blossom rot, a hurricane or some other mishap, we might have tomatoes by late Sept. Wow, what a disappointment!
Fortunately, the lettuce, eggplants, peppers and herbs are doing well. I got a few cukes too, though not the harvest I'd hoped for, and the heatwave knocked off the vines. I was able to save our blueberries from the mockingbirds by netting them.
Still, without tomatoes, I'd have to call the season a bust.

These plants are way behind schedule.
The eggplants are tasty, stir-fried with some green market onions.
The lettuce has been loving it this summer. I have had salad all season long.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

NYC Composts - and so can you!

Check out this story in Crain's New York Business by Miriam Souccar (and edited by me!) about New Yorkers who compost their food waste, even when family and friends say its gross. These folks are ahead of the curve. Soon enough, the whole city will be expected to compost. I personally can't wait!

Every time she so much as peels a carrot, Denise Oliveira takes the waste and stores it in a bag in her freezer instead of throwing it in the garbage. Her freezer is often so full of scraps that there is no room for actual food, but that's the only way Ms. Oliveira can compost without smelling up her small Manhattan apartment.
Once a week, she lugs the bags to a composting bin at the Union Square Greenmarket. Ms. Oliveira, who learned about composting from her mother in Brazil, started doing it a year ago in observance of Lent. Her brother thinks it's gross, and her friends think she's weird. Even Ms. Oliveira admits that composting in New York City is not for the squeamish. "Sometimes you get to the green market and the bin is already piled up so high that you are placing your scraps on this overflowing mountain," said Ms. Oliveira, a freelance writer.
"It is absolutely disgusting."
 Ms. Oliveira is one of a small but growing number of New Yorkers who are finding ways to compost, even with the considerable handicaps of tiny living spaces...Read more at Crain's New York
Composting catches on in NY

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Season's slow start

Between knee surgery this winter and the rainy spring our gardening season has gotten off to a slow start. We were late to plant our tomato seedlings and did not get them into their pots till mid-June. And now they are taking their sweet time growing. They're still tiny, and have yet to flower. By July they should be twice as big.
We're having better luck with lettuce which likes chilly wet weather.
Our tomato plants are so puny.

At least our basil is growing strong. In fact, we just made our first batch of pesto. (I was lucky to catch a little sun for these photos.)

I've already harvested two cucumbers. I hope this flowering plant bears more fruit!

Our flowers are doing the best of all. The hydrangea is the biggest and fullest its ever been. I love the pink blooms. But veggies are the main event for us. I hope the season isn't a total wash out!