March 15, 2014

Starting Seeds Indoors

Quickly now! Run outside and plant your seeds before the rain moves in! If not, stay dry and start them indoors.

Watch this video for some tips. Happy planting!

March 14, 2014

Cut and Come Again Greens

FINALLY! It is time to get out there...up to your ankles in compost and manure...and plant your greens and lettuces. In my small potager, Cut and Come Again greens...(in this planting, lettuces and kale...see the border of purple onions along the brick border? )

...are the perfect, prolific solution to satisfy my green tooth. In just a few weeks, the Red Romaine and Red Salad Bowl lettuces, along with

Red Chicory Radicchio, Latin Kale, and Little Gem Butterhead Lettuce will be ready for harvest and a dash of a lovely vinaigrette. As you might expect, these greens can be cut down once or more, and then will cooperatively bounce back...and continue to grow and yield additional harvests of deliciousness with very little effort. 

When the heat puts a stop to this generousity...the cool-loving greens will be replaced by heat loving herbs, peppers, and tomatoes. In my four potager quadrants, I amended the soil with a good quality compost and loosened the moist (but not wet) soil to about 6-10 inches.

I planted cell-pack starts I found at Lowe's, alternating red and green varieties to please the eye...

then broadcast seeds of mescalun mix in between the small leafy plants. The seeds will germinate and begin to grow filling the void created as I cut the mature greens I planted from the cell-pack starts. I make sure to water when rain is not forthcoming, but wind is...and use an organic snail bait like SLUGGO to protect the tender things from sow bugs, snails and slugs. After the first harvest, I give them a shot of water soluble organic plant food.

I have used all of these greens at one time or another as part of my spring show in the front yard. Black Seeded Simpson in its gorgeous chartreuse hues is especially valuable in an edible landscape.

I am ready and waiting for the lush, verdant freshness of it all. You can find great seed almost anywhere, but for specific or unusual varieties, I recommend SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE (here)THE COOK'S GARDEN (here), or yes, IRISH EYES GARDEN SEEDS (here) (Happy St. Patrick's Day!)

 Get sowing (and may the luck of the Irish be with ye!)

 For a taste of spring and more tips on seed starting, join Linda Cavanaugh and me on 4  YOUR GARDEN today at 4:30 on KFOR.

March 11, 2014

Red Onion Border in the Potager

Almost every year I buy clumps of thin pale onion plants to line the rickety-rack brick border in the potager. Sometimes I actually plant them...and sometimes I forget I bought the little buggers and they languish...only to rot and become an unhappy mushy discovery in late spring. 

I do love the way they march along the edge...soldierly, vertical and upright alongside the ruffly lettuces and greens. Consequently this year I made a point to get them in the ground almost immediately after I brought them home...before my memory had a chance to misbehave.

I planted 16-18 red onions down each interior edge of the four quadrants in the boxwood hedge...4 inches apart and about an inch deep. I amended the soil with compost beforehand and loosened it up quite a bit to make root penetration easier.

A good soak in the warming soil settled them...just before the high wind and cold front moved in. 

March 4, 2014

Chocolate Orange-Cardamon Cookies

When I saw this slice and bake cookie recipe in LHJ over the holidays, I was compelled to bake away -- perhaps the cardamon reminded me of my boy in India. I was decidedly not disappointed...they had the MOST interesting flavor, scent...novelty of ingredients. Divine with a cup of chai or tea in the afternoon.

Added plus...they are beautiful. Rich and sparkly discs of intense chocolate and cardamon.

If you, like moi, are still seeking the comfort of your kitchen and fire during yet another bitter cold spell, try them. Turn your chocolate cookie regimen on its head and dare to try something different. :)

Chocolate Orange-Cardamon Cookies

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cardamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

( I used my marble mortar and pestle to grind up the spices...something I highly recommend as it makes the whole baking experience a much more sensual one...)

In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt and ground cardamom; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar with orange zest until fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla, then stir in the flour mixture. Blend until just combined, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.

Transfer dough to a square of parchment, form into a log 2 inches in diameter and roll tightly in parchment. Refrigerate until solid, about 1 hour, rotating every 20 min. to maintain shape.

Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly brush the dough log with egg white. Place sanding dough sugar and star sprinkles in a rimmed pan and rollin sprinkles until coated well. Or you can apply luster dust to the log with a soft brush. Slice the log into rounds that are about a 1/4 inch thick. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets an inch apart.

Bake until cookies are set and there is slight resistance when you touch centers, 9-10 minutes. Cool on pans. Store airtight up to one week. Bake a batch; save a batch...they freeze beautifully! (They would make a lovely gift with a box of your favorite Earl Grey.)