Horseradish Balsamic Glazed Beets

December 2nd, 2017
Beets with Horseradish Dressing

Beets with Horseradish Dressing

The idea for this recipe was inspired from an hors d’oeuvres sandwich we enjoyed at the GWA (Garden Writers Association) Conference in Buffalo this past summer.  It was called a Beet Slider which consisted of a small dinner-size buttered roll spread with horseradish and a thick slice of cooked beet.  It slid down very nicely!

I had some cooked beets and no dinner rolls so I tried the next best thing.  I tossed some cubed beets with horseradish, added a little olive oil for the slippery factor and some balsamic vinegar for additional flavor.  It was a winner in our “CobraHead Test Kitchen”.

Here’s the recipe:

3 cups cubed cooked beets

2 tsp. olive oil

2 tsp. horseradish

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Toss everything together and enjoy!  Feel free to change all amounts according to your own taste.

Prepping Open Raised Beds for Winter

December 1st, 2017
Open Raised Garden Bed

Open Raised Garden Bed

We’re taking advantage of good weather to get a lot of garden beds prepared for winter.  We’re loosening them up with a broadfork, pulling out most of the weeds, shaping them up neatly, and covering them with a thick layer of leaves.

Raked Smooth, Ready for Winter

Raked Smooth, Ready for Winter

I don’t use cover crops to protect the beds through the winter.  Cover crops are a good approach, as garden soil should not be left uncovered and bare, but I have an abundance of leaves, and covering the garden with them is a lot easier than planting another crop.   A bed all raked smooth as this one is will be ready to plant in the spring.  All we’ll have to do is rake back the leaves, which we can leave in the paths to break down and also act as a weed mulch.

Left – Done, Right – Not Done

Left – Done, Right – Not Done

Note the bed on the right, the one with the bucket.  It needs to be worked up, weeded, and re-shaped.

All Forked Up

All Forked Up

Here’s that bed after I worked it up with a broadfork and removed the weeds.

Shaped Up Bed

Shaped Up Bed

Here’s the same bed after it’s been shaped up and smoothed out using a five-tined cultivating hoe, an antique tool, that in my opinion should be made again, as it is so useful.



These are the four tools I use to work and shape my beds: a scoop shovel, a five-tined cultivating hoe, a broadfork, and a steel rake.

I maintain a large garden and the raised bed approach we use is working.  Our soil continues to improve and maintenance is in many ways a lot easier than it would be with a rototiller or any other more conventional approach.  From a sustainability aspect, using low technology and minimal outside inputs, I’m pretty sure this method ranks at or near the top of all home gardening systems.

Black Friday Garlic

November 24th, 2017
Ridged Garlic Bed

Ridged Garlic Bed

I try to plant garlic by the end of October.  This year it didn’t happen.  Having great faith in climate change, I knew I would get another opportunity or several before the ground froze too hard to work easily. Today the high temperature peaked at around 66 F and it was a quite pleasant day for planting, a very good way to spend Black Friday.

I plant garlic in ridges, three per bed.  I work up the soil in a bed until it is soft. The ideal tool for this is an antique five-tined cultivating hoe. I rake up the soil into three relatively equal ridges.  A steel rake is good for this. I tamp everything down with the rake after I have my ridges shaped as I want them.

Garlic Cloves

Garlic Cloves

This year I was fortunate to meet Greg and Cathy Kosmeder. They own Copper Kettle Farm in Colgate, Wisconsin and are small-scale organic garlic growers. The Kosmeders were vendors at the Wisconsin State Master Gardener Conference as were Judy and I. I came away from the Conference with two varieties of garlic which I added to our home-grown crop of no longer known origin. I seeded the center ridge with Extra Hardy German and Georgia Crystal from the Kosmeder’s farm, and seeded the outer ridges with our home-grown seeds.

Planting Garlic

Planting Garlic

I like to use six-inch spacing for these large cloves. I lay the cloves out on top of the ridges at their six-inch intervals, then come back and insert the closes into the soil, just covering the top of the bulb.  The Original CobraHead works very well as an assist for this. I could just push the cloves into the soil, but by pushing the CobraHead blade into the soil and shoving the clove down alongside the blade it makes the process cleaner, and easier.

Garlic Bed Covered in Straw

Garlic Bed Covered in Straw

A thick covering of straw ensures the garlic will survive the hardest freezes and will be sprouting very early next spring.


November 13th, 2017


I prepared horseradish sauce yesterday.  I ran the horseradish twice through a food processor, first slicing, then shredding the pieces of root. As I was shredding, I added enough vinegar to keep the horseradish from drying out or heating up. The vinegar helps retain the hot flavor and allows it to keep for a while in the refrigerator. It will last a couple months.  It’s a tasty condiment and it has an impressive list of purported health benefits.

Horseradish Plants

Horseradish Plants

I grow horseradish in the herb bed, along with my plantings of perennial onions, garlic, leeks, and chives.  It is very easy to grow and quite difficult to get rid of once you have it.  I could encourage larger, cleaner, and easier to harvest roots if I grew it in softer soil, but it’s not high enough on my list of priorities to give it the treatment it deserves. I do like to have it around because the finished product is so good.

Horseradish Roots

Horseradish Roots

I dug out several plants. The ground was frozen on top but quite soft below the thin crust. I didn’t try to get out the whole plant. That would have entailed a lot of work. Pieces left in the ground will most often grow back. I brushed off as much dirt as I could. I trimmed off the crowns which I shoved back into the soil where I had harvested, just to make sure there would be some around next year. It was too cold to wash them outside so I brought them inside to do that.

Horseradish Peelings

Horseradish Peelings

I’ve read recipes suggesting not peeling the roots, but just washing them before shredding. The roots I harvest are pretty gnarly, with folds packed with dirt, bug holes, rotten spots, and other imperfections I’d rather not have in my sauce. I think peeling is in order.  The peeling process is where the vapors of mustard oil that make horseradish famous first show themselves. Strong whiffs of horseradish vapors could be likened to tear gas. Usually, it’s just some fun in the kitchen, but I think an overdose of fumes could be a real problem.

Peeled and Washed Horseradish Roots

Peeled and Washed Horseradish Roots

Horseradish: washed, trimmed and ready for the food processor.




Roasted Shishito Peppers

November 9th, 2017
Blistered Shishito With Sesame Seed

Blistered Shishito With Sesame Seed

This year was not particularly good for our pepper harvest.  It may have been the location and the fact that the ever so tall Jerusalem artichokes  blocked the east sun from the patch.  That won’t happen next year.  Live and learn.

Luckily we had a late frost so when Noel pulled the last of the pepper plants from the garden on October 30th, we had a bonus – a couple dozen shishito peppers.  We had never grown them before so I thought they were immature wrinkly little things, but it turns out they were exactly as they should be.

I wasn’t sure what to do with them so I did an internet search on the various ways of preparing them.  The simplest way I found was roasting them at 500 degrees with olive oil, salt, pepper then sprinkling with toasted sesame seeds.  Here’s a link to the recipe and video of Michael Symon making them on a television show.

The peppers can also be roasted on the grill, pan blistered, stuffed with cheese, dipped in sauce, etc.  It all depends upon what you’re in the mood for and how much time you want to spend on the preparation.  No matter how you make them they’re sure to disappear quickly.

The seeds were from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.   Check out their amazing website.  And, of course, don’t forget the tool section.  They might just have the CobraHead Weeder and the CobraHead “mini” Weeder in their offering.

CobraHead Tools in Uganda

October 30th, 2017
Happy Gardener in Uganda

Happy Gardener in Uganda

I think Rose Berry bought her first CobraHead from us at the Madison Garden Expo many years ago.  Rose likes our products and she has purchased many tools for gardeners over the years. She let me know that she really could use a lot of CobraHead tools for a project she was involved with in Uganda. I let her know that I had a lot of obsolete but totally functional tools that I would be happy to donate.

Blue CobraHeads in Uganda

Blue CobraHeads in Uganda

Rose is involved in several projects that help Ugandans live better lives.  She got our tools to Africa and sent me pictures of the local people getting their CobraHead tools. I got the pictures but no background story so I asked for some information and Rose sent me this:

“We work with an amazing nun in Uganda named Sr. Salome.  I also work with Remembering Jesse Parker Inc. (You can see the documentary by going to News8000 and search Tears Into Water). Jesse’s Mom is a friend of mine here in Tomah.  Jesse died in an auto accident and aspired to a life of drilling water for Africa. In his honor we have now (in 7 years) drilled 51 wells.

Other projects we have there are a Diva Cup Project which allows adolescent girls to attend school during menstruation, a sewing project, a microloan project, a school sponsorship ($20. per year for primary school for a year), Photos For Peace (where we set up a photo site and take pictures of families (the only one they own), and more. 

The area is called Busalo and is about 70 miles west of Kampala near Mityanna. Laura (my daughter) and I have traveled there 3 times and love the people and their culture. 

Thanks again for your donation!  Your Cobrahead tool has made a difference in my life and it is making a bigger difference in the lives of people who depend on their gardens for life in Africa!

Yellow CobraHeads in Uganda

Yellow CobraHeads in Uganda

The world certainly needs more Rose Berrys and I’m happy we’ve contributed in a small way to helping people in Uganda to grow their own food.  I’m sure Rose and the projects she is involved with could use more help so feel free to reach out to her.  You can reach her at jfberry at centurytel dot net or contact CobraHead and we’ll forward any messages.

Children in Uganda

Children in Uganda

Gardening in Uganda

Gardening in Uganda

Simple Sliced Cucumbers

October 20th, 2017
Simple Cucumber Salad

Simple Cucumber Salad

This has been the year of the cucumber for us.  I still have a dozen cucumbers sitting on the table (in mid-October, no less)  but I think the vines have died back and that will be the last of them.

We ate plain cucumber spears, chopped cucumbers with tomatoes and onions and various combinations of fresh veggies, with or without dressing, and cucumber soup.   I made 2 different kinds of savory sliced refrigerator pickles including one with vinegar and one fermented with salt brine.

Here’s a simple cucumber recipe that’s great for a last minute add to the dinner table.

1-2 peeled cukes or more, sliced on a mandolin or as thin as you can possibly cut them

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt

1-2 T. white wine vinegar

Sprinkle prepared cucumbers with salt and let stand for about 15 minutes or less if you’re in a hurry.  Drain excess liquid and splash with white wine vinegar to taste.  That’s it.  Makes a very refreshing side dish.  You can add sliced red onions or you can add a little sour cream (or yogurt ) for creaminess. Garnish with dill or parsley if so desired.

2017 Sweet Potato Harvest

October 17th, 2017
Sweet Potato Harvest. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Sweet Potato Harvest

We harvested 89 pounds of sweet potatoes yesterday. That’s not a record, but it’s well above our normal yield, and we’re happy with the results. Our average sweet potato yield is about 80 pounds per bed.  We grow a variety named Jewel (sometimes spelled Jewell).  We’ve been growing Jewel from our own starts for over 10 years and we find it excellent for both yield and long-term storage, and they taste great, too!

Empty Bed. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Empty Bed

The potatoes were grown in this very clayey bed.

Sweet Potato Vines. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Sweet Potato Vines

For harvesting, we first removed all the vines and the black plastic sheet which covered the bed and acted as a solar collector to heat up the soil.

18 Harvested Sweet Potato Plants. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

18 Harvested Sweet Potato Plants

Here are the 18 harvested plants.

Vole Damage. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Vole Damage

More Vole Damage. CobraHead Test Gardens. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

More Vole Damage

The forecast is for warm temperatures for the next ten days, but I had to harvest now because I noticed some vole damage on one of the potatoes when I checked under the plastic, two days ago. Any increase in yields we might have gotten for leaving them in the ground longer could have been easily offset by damage from these little varmints.

Fortunately the damage was limited to two plants and was not significant. I found a nest under the plastic, but no voles.

We trimmed up the roots before we weighed them and wheeled them to the house for a two week curing on the kitchen table.

After two weeks in the kitchen, we’ll wrap the larger potatoes in newspaper and store them in the basement. We will be able to enjoy our harvest all year long.


Tomato, Zucchini, Onion Potato Bake

August 29th, 2017
Garden Veggies CobraHead Blog

Garden Veggies

Well here we are again in zucchini tomato season.  I first posted this recipe about five years ago here.

I make it several times each year during the height of the season.  It’s a tasty stick to your ribs meal.

This time I layered the following items twice in a greased casserole dish.

  1. sliced potatoes
  2. sliced zucchini
  3. sliced onions
  4. sliced tomatoes (or chopped)
  5. shredded mozzarella cheese
  6. fresh chopped basil
  7. salt and pepper to taste

Bake covered at 375 degress for 45 minutes.  Remove cover and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft or easily pierced with a fork.

You can leave out the potatoes if you wish to make it more of a side dish.  Eggplant and peppers would be a nice addition.  It’s a simple way to use up your garden produce and the leftovers are great!

Japanese Soba Noodle Salad with Pea Pods

July 6th, 2017
Soba Noodle Salad

Soba Noodle Salad

Our snow peas, sugar snap peas and capucijner soup peas are doing abundantly well this year.  And Bambi, who has been frolicking in our yard hasn’t found them yet.  Of course, Zuri, our watch dog has been running interference so I’m sure that has helped as well.

Anyway, I found a Japanese soba noodle salad in a very old copy of Bon Appétit magazine that featured pea pods, so how could I not try it?  I did change it up a little but used the basic recipe.  It served four people very nicely for lunch.


8 – 12 ounces dried soba noodles (I only had 8 oz.)

4 ounces snow peas, thinly sliced (i used 2 cups sliced in 3-4 pieces each)

1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium carrots)

1/4 cup sliced green onions (I used minced shallots)

1 cup pea pods cooked separately for 1 minute in boiling water

1/4 cup chopped peanuts


1/4 cup soy sauce

3 T. rice vinegar

1 T. toasted sesame oil

1 T. minced fresh ginger

Cook noodles in large pot of boiling water until al dente (about 1 1/2 minutes less than recommended time on package).  Each brand has different cooking times depending upon thickness of noodle.  Add sliced snow peas, cook 30 seconds more and drain.  Rinse with cold water, drain again and place in large mixing bowl.  Stir in carrots and onions.

Mix the dressing ingredients, pour over noodle mix and toss to blend.  May use salt and pepper if desired.

Garnish with whole pea pods (gotta use up them peas) and peanuts.

Note:  The pea pods cooked for 30 seconds with the noodles are crunchy but do turn an olive drab color from the dressing.  That’s why I cooked extra pods separately to add at the last minute.   An addition of baked tofu would also work very nicely in this salad.  Bon Appétit!