Archive for November, 2013

Leek Harvest

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013
Harvesting Leeks

Harvesting Leeks

It was 19 degrees today with a low of 2 predicted for tonight.  I knew it was time to harvest the leeks before they froze into the ground.  We’ve had a lot of below freezing temperatures, but I had the leeks well covered with a layer of agricultural fabric topped over with a layer of polyethylene.  I was hoping they were doing alright.

To my pleasant surprise, the earth under the cover was soft and moist even though the ground surrounding the leek bed was frozen solid.  The ground was so warm, in fact, that earthworms were working the soil.

Harvested Leeks

Harvested Leeks

I started the harvest using a small border fork, but I soon switched to the broadfork, which made the work go a lot faster.  It only took about 20 minutes to get half the leeks dug out and into a wheel barrow.

Leeks Under Cover

Leeks Under Cover

I decided to trust my good luck and re-cover the other half for a later harvest, since I knew Judy wouldn’t want to deal with all those leeks at one time.  Still in the ground are the cold hardy American Flag leeks.  I may consider packing them in with leaves over the next couple days to see how far into the winter, or even spring, we can keep them going.

Lincoln Leeks

Lincoln Leeks

These leeks are a variety called Lincoln.  They are considered an early harvest leek.  Here the roots and leaves have been trimmed off and the outer wraps removed.  A couple inches of the top green parts that are not tender will be cut away.  Some will be stored in the refrigerator, but most will be chopped and frozen.

 

 

 

Comfrey for Compost

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Comfrey and Compost Piles

Comfrey and Compost Piles

I can’t remember how comfrey (Symphytum officinale L.) got introduced into my garden, but it probably came from Geoff when he worked at Nokomis Gardens in East Troy, Wisconsin, about sixteen years ago.  It’s now firmly established  just north of the garden beds and west of the compost area.  The plants are gradually expanding their area of control and comfrey can become a pest with its ability to spread, but I’m welcoming what I currently have and I won’t worry about it taking over just yet.

I took advantage of a drizzly Saturday morning to turn over a compost pile without having to drag hoses or carry in water to get the compost slightly damp.  I thought that layering in a lot of comfrey leaves would bring in some more moisture while adding beneficial nutrients of the leaves to the pile.

The pile I turned had been sitting for a year.  I usually have three piles going simultaneously.  The current year’s pile on the right of the picture is everything I’ve pulled out of the garden this year, mainly weeds and crop residue.  The pile from a year ago was turned once and mixed with a 55 gallon drum of household compost.  That’s the one I’m working on.  And the remainder of a two year old pile is being stored and kept dry in two garbage cans.  It has been screened and is ready for use yet this year or next spring.

Comfrey Plants

Comfrey Plants

The benefits of comfrey as a compost plant are well documented.  Its deep tap roots bring up an exceptional array of nutrients and make comfrey leaves a rich source of nitrogen, potassium, calcium and a whole shopping list of vitamins and minerals.  Organic gardeners and permaculture disciples consider it a most perfect plant.

Kama

Kama

Comfrey’s huge leaves can be harvested up to four times a year merely buy slicing them off at ground level.  I use a little Japanese hand axe called a kama, pictured above, and it’s quite easy to chop the soft stems.

Layering in Comfrey Leaves

Layering in Comfrey Leaves

Another benefit of this remarkable plant is that the leaves break down quickly whether in a compost pile or when used as a mulch.  Here is the pile being layered with comfrey.  Compost purists will argue that compost piles have to be built just right and that they must be brought to a specific temperature to kill weed seeds, but I don’t worry about the technical details.  My gardening technique allows for lots of weeds, which I keep in control with shallow cultivation.   So if the piles don’t reach a specific temperature, I really don’t care.

Finished Compost Pile

Finished Compost Pile

Here’s the finished pile.  Next spring it will be ready to screen and put back into the garden.  You can’t have too much compost so I make a lot.  Working it back into the garden has made my beds softer, more manageable, and of course, more fertile.

Sweet Potato Peanut Stew With Herbed Dumplings

Saturday, November 16th, 2013
Sweet Potato Peanut Dumpling Stew

Sweet Potato Peanut Dumpling Stew

Noel harvested almost 80 pounds of sweet potatoes last month – another record crop for us from 18 starts.  And guess what?  We’re still eating sweet potatoes from last year’s harvest.

I haven’t been cooking them often enough so we’re scrambling to find new ways to serve them – though you just can’t beat them simply baked and buttered.

Here’s an adaptation of a recipe I must have found online a while ago, though I don’t know who authored it.  I’ve already changed some of the vegetables to use up what I had on hand.  As long as you use the same basic liquid, spices and herbs it should turn out delicious.  The leftovers were also wonderful.

Sweet Potato Peanut Stew With Herbed Dumplings Recipe

Stew

1-2 T. extra virgin Olive Oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cups peeled and chopped (3/4” Cubes) sweet potatoes

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 cups chopped tomatoes

4 cups veggie broth

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 T. Tamari Soy Sauce

3 T. Peanut Butter

2 tsp. curry powder

Salt to taste

1 cup peas

Sauté onions and red peppers in olive oil for a couple of minutes over medium heat.  Add sweet potatoes and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.

Add broth, tomatoes, soy sauce, cilantro, peanut butter and curry powder.  Simmer for 15 minutes, add peas and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Dumplings

1 ¼ cups soft whole wheat pastry flour

2 T. minced chives, green onions or parsley

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

2 T. cold butter

½ cup milk or soy milk

1 large egg

Combine flour, herbs, baking powder and salt in large bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender or pulse in food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Beat milk and egg together in a small bowl; add to flour mixture, stirring until mixture is combined.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the dumpling mixture onto the top of the bubbling stew.  Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Test a dumpling and cook a little longer if necessary.  Enjoy!

Stew in the Bowl

Stew in the Bowl