Sunday, June 22, 2014

Happy Summer Solstice!

It's officially summer! My garden is gaining momentum and I have enjoyed watching it slowly become more and more jungle-like. Some of the first plants to mature (aside from my beloved radishes, that is!) were the nasturtiums. I love them because they are incredibly intricately beautiful and they are edible! Nasturtiums contain vitamin C, iron, and anthocyanins (flavonoids with strong antioxidant properties). If you are serving a salad it looks very fancy to put a few of these beauties on top. The leaves of nasturtiums are also edible, but are significantly more peppery than their flower counter-parts.


I was blessed to be invited to a wonderful Solstice party last night at my friend Liza's house. There was a fire pit in the backyard with a warm fire crackling and tiki torches surrounding us to keep away the mosquitoes, which is good since they have a tendency to try to eat me alive. We started out with a meditation and then wrote on pieces of wood words that represented what we wanted to energize in our lives and things that we wanted to rid ourselves of. We then added the sticks to the fire with the idea that the positive things would be energized by the fire while the negative things would be carried away from us by the smoke. A potluck dinner followed with plentiful amounts of delicious foods.

I made a potato salad for the potluck with organic potatoes because according to the studies that produced the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen List, even after being washed potatoes contain more pesticides than any other vegetable by weight. I know buying everything organic can sometimes be a challenge so I think the guide that EWG provides does a great job in helping consumers to prioritize what fruits/veggies are most important.

I love having an herb garden because it has so many benefits: it attracts bees and butterflies, smells great, helps to keep away predatory insects, they taste great, and they have lots of phytonutrients and antioxidants that keep me healthy.  I added some minced mint, as well as chives and dill to the potato salad. I love working on a recipe, and realizing I need a bit more of a certain ingredient, and being able to get what I need from my backyard garden. It is such a great feeling!


Potato salad recipe:
9 red-skinned organic potatoes, diced (on the EWG Dirty Dozen List so buy organic!)
4 stalks organic celery, finely chopped (on the EWG Dirty Dozen List so buy organic!)
1/3 C red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp mayo
6 oz plain yogurt (I used whole-milk goat yogurt but you can use whatever you want)
1 Tbsp olive oil
a handful of fresh dill, chopped
3 sprigs of mint, chopped
a handful of chives (about 10-15), chopped
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the potatoes, celery and red onion. Add the mayo and yogurt. Mix in the spices and herbs and you're good to go!

Today when I was serving leftovers for lunch I mixed a couple of hard-boiled eggs into the potato salad, which complemented it nicely. I served that over a bed of buttercrunch lettuce (picked from my garden) mixed with clover and chickweed that I foraged from outside, as well as a dash of Greek feta vinaigrette. Mmmm mmmm good.


Monday, June 2, 2014

More Radish Love. And Flowers.

Radish love.

I know I mentioned my radishes in the last post but I had to put up another photo of a bunch that I picked this evening after work because they are just so beautiful and vibrant! Who could possibly look at these and not smile?! 

I really think that radishes get a bad rap. They are often overlooked, or tossed casually into a salad that will be drowned in dressing. This evening my dad made an omelet for dinner with sauteed onions and radishes, herbs, and cheddar cheese and it was delicious! When radishes are cooked, even lightly, they really mellow out in the flavor department. People who don't enjoy the peppery bite of raw radishes might like them better if they try cooking them. 

The classic French style of eating radishes is on baguette with butter and salt. You can find a good recipe, in that vein, from Ina Garten

If you think radishes have had it bad, think of poor radish greens, so often altogether discarded when they too can (and should!) be enjoyed. There is a good collection of recipes using radish greens here. Personally, when I am cooking any other type of greens (kale, chard, dandelion greens, etc) I just mix the radish greens into the pot, add some olive oil and garlic, and call it good!

Aside from the aesthetic and culinary benefits of growing radishes I recently learned that radishes are high in Vitamin C. They also contain folate, riboflavin, copper, potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, calcium, and fiber. 

I think it is important to have color diversity in the vegetables that you consume. Broadening your color horizons will not only have a positive impact on your health (from the wide array of phytonutrients) but it will also make cooking more fun, experimental, and interactive! And if you can grow it yourself, that will just add to your appreciation for what you eat. My spring planting of radishes is almost ready to be fully harvested, which will make room for the crops of summer to mature. I plan on planting more radishes in late summer to harvest in the fall as bigger tubers that can be stored over winter.


Flowers in my garden.

People tend to either really like or dislike marigolds. I fall into the group that really likes them. I enjoy the different color combinations that they come in and I appreciate the fact that they deter nematodes that would otherwise attack my tomato plants!


Working at the plant nursery, Pink Grizzly, in Missoula, I soon came to favor verbena plants with their clusters of beautiful, delicate flowers. I made sure to plant some in my garden this year and they are looking nice and healthy. They are a cheerful sight in the morning.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Radish Gypsy

I LOVE this warm weather and I can't over-emphasize how appreciative I am of how few mosquitoes I have come into contact with as of yet (knock on wood!). My garden is coming along. I started out seeding a variety of crops with a dream of a garden coming to fruition. Sure enough, the seeds sprouted (after lots of TLC), and now the tiny seedlings have morphed into actual, discernible plants. I am very happy to report that my first round of radishes have been harvested. This year I planted Radish Saxa II seeds, which I bought along with all of my other seeds, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. I probably would have found that company on my own, based on my interest in heirloom seeds, but I actually first discovered it when I sat next to the mother of the owner on an airplane ride to Montana. Kismet!

Radish Saxa II
I saw a beautiful moth on the outside of my house so I took a couple photos of it so I could later identify it. Unless I am mistaken, it turns out this beautiful moth is a lady of death: an invasive Gypsy moth, the dreaded destroyer of beautiful tree foliage and enemy to hardwood tree species of the Eastern US.



When I first saw the moth I was in awe of its beauty and careful to not disturb it as I photographed it. I find it ironic that if I saw one again I would probably end up killing it to protect the trees that its offspring would destroy. It amazes me how much perception of something can be changed by what you believe about it to be true. The moth doesn't know that it is being destructive. It is simply doing what it needs to do in order to survive, as any other species in its position would do. This is a prime example of how dangerous non-native invasive species can be. It isn't the sexiest of issues but it is one that has far-reaching implications across the big picture of the web of life.