Archive for the 'Herbs' Category

I am more compulsive in other areas of my life

Apparently, over the winter, someone decided to throw approximately 1,000 small twigs into my garden plot. It’s lucky that, although I definitely have areas in which I exhibit great symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the garden is not one of those areas. Therefore, on Sunday evening, I picked about 428 of those twigs out of the garden before giving up and just deciding that the remaining ones provided some interest, and also a good challenge for the seedlings to come. The really strong ones, after all, ought to be able to push the twigs out of the way, right?

Don’t worry, Master Gardeners. I’ll pick more out in the next couple of days.

Besides the twigs, I needed to remove the clumps of grass that had infiltrated the plot over the winter, which is miraculous, because how the grass was able to be all sneaky like that underneath 20 inches of snow baffles me considerably. I also yanked any dead plants that would have come out if said snow hadn’t snuck up on me itself before I had time to clean much up last year.

Sage coming back to lifeBut there were signs of life. Besides the garlic and the aforementioned baby spinach that is just coming up all on its own, it appears that one of my sage plants is resurrecting itself. There were some green baby leaves that are destined to become tasty treats sooner rather than later.

I yanked the rest of the sage plants as carefully as I could so I wouldn’t disturb the newcomers, and took all the dead plants over to the compost pile. Then I set about turning over the soil, unearthing all manner of worms who were not particularly thrilled to see me hanging out. Then I got moving on dropping in seeds in my normal, laissez faire manner, starting with the chard, which has bony little seeds that I loved from the moment I saw them.

These are the cutest seeds ever.

After the chard, I moved on to the rest: spinach, rosemary, sage, Italian parsley and some green beans. Once I had put far too many seeds in, as usual, ignoring the wise advice of the back of the seed packet, I covered everything up. Then I stepped back from the garden plot, the sun setting behind me, and nodded. Oh, tasty spinach. Oh, tasty chard. Oh, delicious herbs. I hope some of you come up soon, despite my best efforts to plant you incorrectly.

Starting, with seeds

This garden plot has absolutely nothing going for it.I have been struggling with a distinct lack of gardening momentum. The weather finally kicked into gear and warmed up, and yet my garden plot sat, in the backyard, untidy and neglected. Sure, there’s some garlic poking up through the ground, but the rest? Home to dead sage, dead Texas Tarragon, dead rosemary, dead greens…well, you get the idea.

I never even put in a seed order. How ridiculous is that? Every other gardener I know spent the miserable winter ordering seeds willy-nilly, but I couldn’t even get myself to imagine that far in advance, so I skipped that whole process. I mean, yeah, I did buy those Italian seeds back in February, but that doesn’t possibly compete with all those gardeners who spend time plotting out their gardens on graph paper long before winter winds to a close.

On Sunday afternoon, though, after reading the Michael Pollan article I mentioned on Monday, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I took a walk over to the co-op to get a few things, and availed myself of their rack of Seed Savers seed packets. Thank you, New Pioneer Co-op, for not only providing me with a source for my favorite single source honey and a prodigious amount of wine, but for also allowing me to be utterly lazy about planning my garden yet still buy really quality seeds from a cool source.

I went for things I could plant this early in the season, because it looks like we still have some fairly chilly nights ahead. In other words, I did not pick out basil, but I did grab spinach, chard, green beans, rosemary, sage and Italian parsley.

I headed home again, seeds in my Inadvertent Gardener tote bag, glad that even though I’d procrastinated into the late afternoon, there was still plenty of light out in the garden. As I walked down Washington Street toward home, imagining how I’d lay out the seeds I just bought. Who needs graph paper, anyway?

Golden statue bruschetta

I consider the day the Oscars ceremony airs to be something of a national holiday. I love movies, but for years, have harbored a not-so-secret obsession: I must see all the Best Picture nominees before the award show, and I keep a list from the second the nominations press conference ends to track how many nominated films I’ve seen.

It’s also significantly more fun to watch the ceremony with like-minded friends. By that, I mean friends willing to snark all over the place about the dresses, the tuxes, the attitudes, the speeches, the bad jokes, the bad results, and the endless montages.

Last year, I watched the Oscars alone, but this year, gathered with a group of friends to eat, drink and snark until the last little golden man had been handed out. In honor of the occasion, I contributed two different kinds of bruschetta to the festivities: fig and blue cheese, and basil-tomato made with summer produce harvested from the freezer.

The fig and blue cheese combo is, well, scrumptious. But I equally, if not more deeply, enjoyed the bruschetta version made with slow-roasted tomatoes and basil I harvested and chopped from my very own garden. There have been so many times this month when I’ve been thrilled that I thought to freeze the flavors of summer, and there’s no question that all that glittered last night was not Oscar gold.

BruschettaGolden Statue Bruschetta

1 baguette
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
30 slow-roasted tomato halves
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
5 oz. blue cheese
5 Tbsp. fig jam

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Slice baguette into 20 rounds. Arrange them on a baking sheet.
  3. Top half the slices with approximately 1 Tbsp. chopped basil and three slow roasted tomato halves.
  4. Sprinkle those slices with the Parmesan cheese.
  5. Top the other half of the slices with 1/2 oz. blue cheese each.
  6. Spread 1/2 Tbsp. fig jam on top of the blue cheese on each slice of bread.
  7. Bake the bruschetta for approximately 10 minutes, or until the bread is starting to crisp up and the cheese is melting.
  8. Serve immediately with a side of snark.

Although it’s a little early in the week to be thinking about the weekend, this is my contribution to this week’s edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, which is hosted this week by Zorra from Kochtopf. When the weekend actually arrives, please stop by to check out the full round-up!

Pesto: the cure for what ails me

Weekend Herb Blogging 2nd Anniversary logoAfter The Mint Killer prescribed me a sun lamp and more than one other friend commented on how worried they’ve been about my infernally snowbound-cranky mood, I realized two things: it was time to take drastic action, and I have been hoarding summer-like therapy in my freezer.

The inspiration for this particular plan of attack came last week, when one of my coworkers and I got to talking about Pizza Ranch on the way in to work. Pizza Ranch is a South Dakota chain that opened an outlet at Sycamore Mall in Iowa City about a year and a half ago. I can admit having eaten there one night when I was with a friend to see a movie and we discovered we had 45 minutes to kill before our film started. We decided to hit Pizza Ranch for a quick bite, and the place frightened me.

Here is what Pizza Ranch has to offer: unlimited pizza with a huge variety of toppings. Salad, although honestly, much of what is on the salad bar involves things of the creamy or pudding variety. Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes. Unlimited soda with the ability to add your very own preferential amount of cherry or vanilla syrup.

“That’s going to guarantee you a well-behaved child,” I said. “And we wonder why America is fat.”

“You know, pizza actually isn’t all that healthy,” my coworker said.

We went on to talk about homemade pizza, made on flatbreads and pitas and other healthy crust options, and it got me to thinking that I hadn’t made any in awhile. This, plus the fact that I had a lot of cubes of homemade pesto frozen in my kitchen, inspired me to try something that would remind me of those days when I could just run outside in shorts and flip-flops and harvest a quick handful of basil from the yard. Those times are coming again, and all I have to do is hang on.

Pesto pizzaI nuked a cube of pesto and spread it across a multi-grain Flatout flatbread, which serves as an excellent thin crust for these matters. The particular version photographed here featured sautéed spinach, sundried tomatoes, sliced baby bella mushrooms, and just enough part-skim mozzarella to hold everything together without letting things get out of hand. I baked it all at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, just until everything was brown and just a bit crispy.

The kitchen smelled of summery pesto from the time I started thawing the cube until long after the flatbread pizza finished baking. It was the best medicine I’d had in a long time, the flavors tied together with that bite of garlic and that smooth, summery flavor of the basil. I have been finding ways ever since to sneak those pesto cubes into my daily diet—honestly, they’re almost as good as a plane ticket to somewhere warm and blessedly snow-free.

All this herby goodness? It must mean that, after a fairly long absence, I’m returning to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is this week by Ulrike of Kuchenlatein. Be sure to check in with Ulrike’s blog for the full round-up!

Leafy greens

I know I promised a week of travel stories and photos, but in the meantime, there have been more pressing issues in the garden.

Here’s the situation. I am not done gardening for the season. No way, no how. There’s more to be done. My sage is acting like it has no issues with the current weather pattern, the rosemary’s still good, even the Leafy greenstarragon looks pretty happy out there. And I have leafy greens growing. Lots and lots of leafy greens.

The problem? They’re leafier than usual, thanks to the black walnut tree’s annual shedding of its own leafy coat. The dried leaves are piled up amidst my greens, piled so high, in fact, that the arugula is pretty much choking to death, and the rest of the greens aren’t so thrilled either.

I’ve taken to raking the leaves out with my hands, trying hard not to rip out any actual wanted plants with them. But I can’t help wishing for some sort of selective leaf vacuum, one that would aim its powers of suction only at the dried-up, unwanted leaves, and would not bother the growing plants. It’s my own little garden fantasy.

But if you and yours are aware of any great shortcut techniques to make this process easier, they would be most welcome. Now that the time has changed, I’m pretty much relegated to doing this in the dark and cold, which means I’m trying to be as efficient as possible.

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