Archive for November, 2012

Thai Carrot Salad with Peanuts

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Thai Carrot Peanut Salad

We are still pulling carrots directly from the earth.  Noel planted beets and carrots in one of his raised beds in August.  When cold weather set in, he covered the plants with ag fabric, and put a mini hoop house over the entire bed, covered with clear poly.  The ground in the garden outside the tunnel is already frosted, but Noel was able to harvest these carrots from still soft soil by hand.

Carrots in Hoop Tunnel

Fresh Carrots

Other than eating the deliciously sweet carrots after a quick wash in water we love the ‘Thai Carrot Salad with Peanuts’ recipe by Bettina Vitell from her book, A Taste of Heaven and Earth.

Here’s a link to her recipe.  Thai Carrot Salad with Peanuts

I pretty much make it as is, but usually use a fresh or frozen serano pepper in place of the dried red chili flakes.  We have yet to have fresh mint at the right time for garnish, but we usually have cilantro on hand.

Give it a try, it’s such a refreshing and clean tasting salad.


Marinated Brussels Sprouts

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Marinated Brussels Sprouts and Carrot Curls

Marinated Brussels Sprouts make a great do-ahead side dish for Thanksgiving dinner or any other meal for that matter.  They’re also great for snacking on in between meals.

Brussels Sprouts on the Stem

We’re still picking them out of the garden but before it gets too cold and stays that way I’ll be blanching and freezing them.  They can be thawed and roasted, steamed or marinated all winter long.

Blanched and Drained Brussels Sprouts

1 ½ lbs. Brussels Sprouts, washed and trimmed, remove any unsightly outer leaves

Mixing the Marinade

Marinade Recipe:

1 clove garlic, pressed or mashed with a pinch of salt

1 tsp. stone ground or Dijon mustard

1 T. seasoned rice vinegar or Balsamic vinegar

2-3 T. Olive Oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Cut a 1/4” deep ‘X’ in the stem end and blanch Brussels sprouts in boiling water for about 5 minutes.  If your sprouts are different sizes give the larger ones a one-minute head start, then add in the smaller ones.  They should be just barely cooked.  The marinade will soften the Brussels sprouts a little more, depending upon how long they sit in the sauce.

Mix the garlic, salt, mustard and pepper together using a mortar and pestle or small bowl & fork.  Add in the vinegar and thoroughly blend in the olive oil.  Adjust the seasonings and pour over the drained sprouts.  Let marinate as long as you can wait or refrigerate for later use.  You could also use your favorite bottled vinaigrette if you’re short of time.

These also make great appetizers to include on an antipasto plate before that special meal.  Garnish with some red pepper strips or carrot curls for color.  Voila!


Advantages of Open Raised Beds

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Open Raised Beds

As I work on putting my garden to bed for the winter I’m realizing how much I like working with open raised beds.  I’ve been working with them for nearly thirty years.  Soon after starting my Wisconsin garden in 1986, I knew that, for me at least, maintaining a relatively large garden did not require power equipment and I gave away my rototiller.   All the work in my raised bed garden is done with hand tools.

I’ve become an advocate for growing food intensively in open raised beds.  It’s a great way to grow a lot of food without a lot of outside inputs.   Open raised beds have been around about as long as people have been growing food, but the method I’ve developed and refined over the years is based mostly on the well-known book HOW TO GROW MORE VEGETABLES  by John Jeavons.  The book was my rudimentary instructor, but I’ve modified things to suit my garden and what works well for me.

North Beds

The overview of the system is that instead of planting crops in rows, the garden is composed of beds of loose soil.  The gardener only walks in the paths surrounding the beds, thus soil compaction is nearly eliminated.  The beds are seeded or planted so that as the crops mature they cover the bed with leaf growth which helps suppress weeds.  Plants spaced in a pattern covering the entire width of the beds yield far larger harvests per area than possible by traditional planting in rows.

As I prepared the beds for winter this year several things that make this system work so well became very apparent.  Because I’m constantly adding organic matter, because I never walk on the beds, and because I’m constantly rotating different crops though the beds, my once impossibly hard clay soil is continually getting softer.  Much of the garden has achieved a friability that I could only have dreamed of just a few years ago.

I use my old five-tined cultivating hoe to occasionally rip the paths loose and put the rich soil back into the beds.  The paths build up as the beds flatten out so I have to put that build-up back into the beds every second or third year.  I did a major path clean up this year and moved a lot soil back into the beds.

What I find quite interesting is that the paths, for all their dense clay texture, seem to hold more worms per cubic area of soil than the beds.  Clay is not the enemy a lot of gardeners make it out to be.

16 Inches of Super Soft Soil

In the bed pictured above, you can see a yardstick that I easily shoved 16 inches down into the soil.  Unlike row gardening, the soil in these beds never gets walked on or driven over with a tiller or tractor, so with the continual addition of compost and leaf mold, coupled with the effect of rotating different crops though the beds, the soil gets softer and softer.

Raised Beds Can Help Weed Control

Raised beds can be quite easy to weed  The paths can be scalped clean with a scuffle hoe and the weeds in the beds can often be scalped off or pulled out using a stand up tool (we find our CobraHead Long Handle does a good job, here), and in the beds the soil is often so soft that weeds can be removed by hand with no tools at all.

Keeping the paths weed free also helps confine weedy areas to a manageable situation.  I do not have the time I wish I had to garden, so at least if an area gets out of control, it is confined and corralled by cleanly weeded paths.  This is especially important in areas where I have perennial plants, herbs, and strawberries in particular.  The weeding in these beds sometimes gets away from me, and occasionally the only logical option to get them back in shape is to rip them out totally and replant, which I have to do for strawberries, every third year anyway.

South Beds with Leaves


North Beds with Leaves

I try to get the beds completely covered with leaves every fall.  An alternative to this would be to use cover crops, but leaf cover is proving to be very effective and I think a lot easier than maintaining cover crops.  In spring I just rake the leaves into the aisles where they act as a weed suppressing mulch and eventually break down into leaf mold.

I’m just about done with the garden until spring.  I still have some leeks and Brussels sprouts  being protected by a cover of leaves.  They will need to get harvested soon, and there are some carrots and beets and a few edible greens under the hoop tunnel.  I’ll work at getting a few more leaves into the beds, but mostly the garden is finished and the work is under control.  Now I can start planning for next year.

Veggie Reuben Open-Faced Sandwich

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Tofu Reuben with Cortido

Here’s a relatively quick lunch that makes use of the sauerkraut that I talked about in a previous post here.

It consists of 1 or 2 pieces of your favorite bread, toasted, and spread with your favorite stone ground or Dijon mustard.  Top with Swiss cheese – we used Emmentaler, a slab of seared tofu (recipe follows) and (Cortido) sauerkraut.

For those of you who haven’t tried tofu, or think you don’t like it, this recipe may change your mind.

4 servings

Whole grain bread

Swiss Emmentaler cheese



½ lb. tofu, sliced into 4 pieces

1/3 cup sesame seeds

2 T. nutritional yeast

1 T. tamari

1/3 cup water – may substitute part with a bit of white wine

2 T. olive oil

Freshly ground pepper

Sauteed Tofu

Mix sesame seeds, nutritional yeast and pepper together.  Dredge moist tofu slices in the mixture, totally covering each side.  Sauté in olive oil in preheated (medium high) cast iron frying pan for 2 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Mix tamari and water together and pour over the tofu.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the tofu is infused with the flavored liquid.

Place tofu slices on toasted bread prepared with mustard and cheese.  Be sure to spoon on the excess juice and sesame seeds left in the pan.  Top with sauerkraut and enjoy!

CobraHead LLC and Green Bay Drop Forge Keep Garden Tool Manufacturing in Wisconsin

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

We are happy to have had a relationship with Green Bay Drop Forge since the inception of our company.  Below we tell more about the challenges and benefits of keeping our manufacturing in Wisconsin.

Cambridge, WI – November 2012 —

Bucking the trend of shifting manufacturing overseas, the partnership between CobraHead Tools and Green Bay Drop Forge shows how Wisconsin manufacturing can produce a quality product and retain local jobs.

CobraHead’s founder, Noel Valdes, had developed the idea for a gardening hand tool. He had the patent pending design idea, and he had the market data to show the demand. What he was missing was a reliable, domestic hand tool forging source and the necessary metallurgical and production expertise. “I had made it my mission to have the tool made locally instead of overseas”, says Valdes. “I set out to find a partner in the Midwest who I could work with and trust.”

“Finding Green Bay Drop Forge, a well established Midwestern forger with a sincere willingness to be a partner to us, was the answer. Green Bay Drop Forge immediately showed exceptional and friendly encouragement in helping us get the tool designed and produced. They developed prototype-manufacturing prints and established tooling and manufacturing costs for both prototype and full production runs”, says Valdes.

By partnering with Green Bay Drop Forge from the very beginning, CobraHead, LLC has developed a unique forged hand tool unlike any other. It has been enthusiastically endorsed by the most respected gardening journalists and horticulturists in the US, Canada, and the UK. “Over the years, Green Bay Drop Forge has consistently delivered exceptional quality, manufacturing expertise, and service. They are reliable and always accessible. We would simply not exist as a company without Green Bay Drop Forge. They are a true partner to us.”

To read more from Green Bay Drop Forge please visit