October Harvest

October Harvest, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Today’s harvest includes a healthy bunch of semi-ripe tomatoes (and there’s plenty more where these came from).  I’m rooting cuttings from the healthiest vines to see how long I can keep them growing indoors through the winter.

There are also loads of yet-to-be-harvested purple-podded pole beans.  Half of them are still purple, and the other half are now mostly brown.  It’ll probably take a few hours to collect all the rest of the bean pods from the vines!

We have a couple handfuls of small jalapeños and sweet green peppers remaining.  Now that the plants are slowly dying back, I’m finding spring-sown parsley and lettuce that are thriving in the cool weather.

Pictured here is the first (and tiniest) of our pumpkins.  Three others are about two or three times this size, but only one is safely within the fence.  The exposed pumpkins will likely be claimed by the husky once they ripen.  (He’s been pulling and eating the rainbow carrots from of the cold frame, and harvests all the tomatoes that grown outside the fence.  I’ve learned to deliberately plant vegetables he likes around the yard so he can help himself all summer.

Also shown are the honeycrisp apples and a couple bananas from the local farm stand this morning (where I also grabbed some bigger pumpkins, and learned that they will be selling live Christmas trees this season).

The biggest colander is full of counter-ripened tomatoes for this weekend’s pasta sauce.  And the fragrant bunch of flowers include marigolds, peppermint, chives, nasturtiums, clovers, dandelions, lavender, and fireweed curls.

Next I’ll begin culling the tomatoes from the cold frames to make way for cold season vegetables.  My favorite cold weather crops for the cold frame include cilantro, lettuce, spinach, and other greens, as well as radishes, onions, and carrots.  This year I’ll also be including cauliflower and broccoli, and I’m considering an experiment with winter squash.

Late Tomatoes, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Autumn Garden Updates

Sunflower and Honey Bee, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone BlackwaterHappy autumn everyone!

If you’re wondering where I’ve been all summer, the answer is simple: out in the garden.  Autumn is my favorite season, but learning to grow food has vastly broadened my appreciation of the warm, sunny growing months.

Despite my goals to be more a more diligent blogger for 2009, I have instead focused the majority of my time on writing fiction and poetry, and growing food and flowers.

Kind thanks to reader Diana Hunt for encouraging me to get back to business at AppleJade.  To start us off, here’s a quick peek at what I was doing out in the garden during June, July, and August…

Foxglove Blooms, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

In June we were smitten with strawberries.  These plants have been growing here without any help from me for nearly 10 years.  They have happily consumed a sizable chunk of the vegetable patch, and this autumn many of them will be relocating to new beds which are being established in the rockier and less-hospitable parts of the yard.  My reasoning is that the strawberries are so hardy and so happy to propagate that they should make excellent (and tasty) pioneers.

Happy Strawberry Harvest, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The corn plants grew steadily through June and July, and I really should dedicate an entire separate post to what they accomplished this year by creating so much food out of so little soil.  We ate sweet, healthy corn all through the month of August.

Young Corn Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Pumpkins had a slow start, and I think we now have three pie-worthy squash out there which are just beginning to turn orange.  My plan for next spring is to start the squash in the cold frame as I did with the corn, and then transplant when it’s warm enough in May.  This was a successful approach for the corn harvest, so hopefully pumpkins and other squash won’t mind the transplant method.  Pumpkins will definitely have a post of their own so you can see their progress and learn about their flowers.

Young Pumpkin Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Sunflowers dominated the scene all around the yard this year.  We collected almost all the seeds from our Pennsylvania sunflowers, and those seeds waited patiently from 2007 to be planted here in western Washington this year and subsequently bloom upwards of eight feet.  They’re just finishing now.  I managed to get three of the largest seed-heads indoors to finish drying, but the rest have been claimed by the busy blue Steller’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri).  As with corn and pumpkins, the sunflowers deserve a post of their own to show just how much they accomplished this season.  (And yes, that’s me, standing in front of some of the corn and sunflowers just before the first flowers opened.  The purple-pink blush behind the corn is from the foxglove (genus Digitalis) and fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) two of my favorite local wildflowers, coming in to full summer bloom.)

The Gardener, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Marigolds, lettuce, cilantro, beans, and many others have boomed throughout the garden and pop up just about everywhere.  I moved all the arugula and other greens out of the cold frames when they went to seed, and let the plants finish in the cooler corners of the fenced-in vegetable garden.  They should be dropping those seeds very soon now thanks to the wind and rain, which will hopefully result in a fresh crop.

Marigold Treasure, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Tomatoes grew strong, vibrant, and healthy all season, but left me with a plethora of green fruits.  They have only just begun to ripen, and as a result many of them are coming indoors as soon as they begin to to show yellow or pink where they can finish among the warmth of the kitchen.  I’ll continue to keep them ripening outdoors until the tomato plants finally turn brown – which I’m guessing isn’t too far in the future.

Green Tomato Load, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

For now, I’ll leave you with a nasturtium, another friendly flower which can be found just about everywhere around the garden.  While all parts of nasturtiums are edible, I’ve resisted collecting too many flowers or seeds for dinners in the hopes that the plants will successfully re-seed themselves for next summer.  I’ll let you know my success when they reemerge next June.

Friendly Nasturtiums, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Bread Machine Basics: One Good Loaf

Happy Loaf, © Copyright 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Since my first bread machine post I’ve enjoyed the chance to successfully prepare several loaves of bread. I’ve learned a few troubleshooting techniques, and I’ve settled in to a comfortable groove which begins each Monday with bread baking among my other week-starting activities.

My very first loaf tasted nice enough, but it rose high and then fell in the middle. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think, but then I remembered that the clear, simple user manual includes a useful table at the back: the Troubleshooting Guide. Listed there are several recommendations for adjustments in ingredients, portions, and techniques in order to correct ill-fated bread loaves. I have since reduced the water in my recipes by a few tablespoons, and my loaves come out perfect every time.

I started with the simple white bread recipe offered in the manual, and quickly found that I prefer a modified version of the Italian Herb Bread recipe for my daily bread. This recipe uses olive oil rather than butter, no dry milk, and less sugar. Take out the herbs and add in garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, and nutmeg – all in tiny quantities – and I find myself with a simple loaf that easily accompanies most meals.

Now that I have an easy confidence with loaves, it’s time to try the next step: dough. The user manual for my bread machine includes simple techniques for dough making so that I can try my first homemade croissant: my goal for next week.

Ahead at AppleJade: cold frames have returned to Jade’s house, vegetables are sprouting on the fridge, and affordable home improvements are being planned. I look forward to sharing more!

Bread Machine Basics, Take One

Bread Machine Take One, © Copyright 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

For Christmas my mother provided me with an exciting kitchen tool: a bread machine.  (Thanks Mom!)

I’ve been trying to learn how to make breads and pastries for several years.  While I have finally mastered sauces, cookies, and many main course dishes, I seem to fail with most breads.  Perhaps it is because of my casual measuring methods.  Perhaps it’s my lacking upper-arm strength.  Ultimately, I’m inclined to believe that my real trouble with breads is that I haven’t had enough success to a) build confidence and b) understand the real mechanics of bread.

Mom knows I’ve been trying to learn to do things for myself in the kitchen, and most folks know that if there was ever a time to tighten the belt and save money, it’s now.  My goal with this new bread machine is to learn to successfully make homemade breads and other goodies that I would normally pay more to purchase prepared at the grocery store.

Shown here is my new ZOJIRUSHI Home Bake Supreme.  Mom knows her stuff:  this machine also makes jams, cake breads, sourdough starters, and bread doughs for pizza and such.  This morning under a dark 5am sky, I carefully combined the ingredients for a Basic White Bread in the prescribed order, and pushed “Start.”  This might not be the handmade, elbow-greased bread to which I ultimately aspire, but it’s a start.  Plus, my bread is being made while I get to work around the house… not a bad deal!

I’ll follow up to share my successes (or challenges) as I familiarize myself with my new bread machine.  Your comments and experiences are welcome!

Book Review: Not Just for Vegetarians

Not Just for Vegetarians, © Copyright 2008 Geraldine Hartman

Not Just for Vegetarians: Delicious Homestyle Cooking, the Meatless Way

by Geraldine Hartman

The book for today’s review was provided by: Geraldine Hartman, Veggies, Yarns and Tails

I write AppleJade because I honor the connection between kitchen, garden, and health.  Geraldine Hartman’s cookbook Not Just for Vegetarians extends the connection between vegetables and cooking to our relationships and traditions of friends and family, and our attitudes toward our food.  Healthy living incorporates more than the mere substance of our food, and Geraldine speaks to the soul of it.

Not Just for Vegetarians reads and functions with the friendliness of a neighbor or grandmother.  Indeed, Geraldine dedicates her book to members of her family, and there is a clear influence among her recipes of friends, traditions, and memories which help to sculpt each dish.  Geraldine tells us that in her journey to a vegetarian lifestyle she has found “that the vegetarian diet can be much more varied and interesting than the conventional ‘meat and potato’ menu.”

I began experimenting with Geraldine’s book by exploring the first segment: bread.  We enter her book as we enter our grandmother’s kitchen, with a warm loaf of bread cooling on the counter and filling the house with honeyed aromas.  I am still in the learning process with breads, but I had no trouble with her “Quickie Oatmeal Bread,” and I am slowly improving with “Grandmother Sabina’s Best Bread You’ve Ever Tasted!!!”

I wander her book like I wander my pantry, seeking out unexpected treasures tucked in the corners.  I do not look in the index for refried beans under “B” for beans; instead I find them under “M” for Main Dishes – “Homemade Refried Beans”.  The result is constant experimentation.  I need only to flip through the pages until I find something that sounds interesting, and I’m off to try something new.

Thus far, my attempts at all recipes have passed “The Yucky Test” in my home.  This says a lot for Geraldine’s down-to-earth, home-comfort style: anything which is too bland, too strangely textured, or too-rabbit-food will not pass muster on our table.  Geraldine’s recipes lend themselves to spicing and modification according to taste, and she offers numerous variation suggestions of her own within the pages.

Not Just for Vegetarians is more than a simple vegetarian cookbook.  Geraldine has crafted her book to be a friendly, helpful voice to inspire creativity and experimentation with healthy food.  Books like Not Just for Vegetarians help move us away from bland, packaged foods and back into the substance and soul of our kitchens.  Regardless of whether you live a vegetarian lifestyle, Geraldine’s Not Just for Vegetarians offers recipes that will delight everyone at your table.

Vegetarian Carnival #13 is now online at VeggieChic

Green Tomatoes, Summer 2007, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

To those just joining us from the Vegetarian Carnival, Welcome to AppleJade!

This week Jul of VeggieChic hosts the Vegetarian Carnival #13.  The Vegetarian Carnival is held approximately twice a month featuring blog posts around various themes associated with a vegetarian lifestyle.

Jul was kind enough to include a link to our cold frame discussions here at AppleJade.  While I am not a strict vegetarian, I enjoy vegetarian and vegan cuisine, and adore growing my own fresh foods year-round.  At AppleJade you can expect ongoing discussions about organic gardening and cooking as a part of our greater discussion about healthy lifestyles and goals.

If you would like to submit to the Vegetarian Carnival or volunteer to host a future carnival, be sure to visit the Vegetarian Carnival information page for more details.

Fruit Blogging

Summer Apple, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

The Festival of the Trees is a monthly blog carnival featuring posts about trees and forests.  The upcoming festival #21 is a special-edition festival featuring fruit trees and orchards.

Our hostess Peg at Orchards Forever has invited us to contribute our blog posts:

“I’d like to try and adhere to a theme of fruit trees and orchards… but virtually anything that is even loosely connected to that theme is welcome! Gardening and growing, horticulture, heirloom fruits, food and recipes, environmental and conservation issues, folklore and mythology, travel, what have you!”

If you like to blog about cooking, gardening, health, nutrition, the earth, or your own backyard, then this month you have a great excuse to share your posts about fruits and fruit trees!  Publish your blog posts and then send your links to Peg at amberapple [at] gmail [dot] com, or visit the Festival of the Trees coordinating blog for more details.