Last week I was in Mexico City visiting family and saw an abundance of new living walls. Here are some photos of two of them.
Archive for December, 2014
The garden is put to bed. I was diligent about dragging in leaves to cover most of the beds with a thick protective layer. Last year snows and cold weather came before I was ready and the leaf covering ritual was interrupted. That caused me much more work this season than I wanted to do, but I did learn a lot about weeding. Without the leaf cover, weeds emerged sooner and the ground in the beds was not as soft. The extra weeding re-affirmed my belief that we approach weeds wrongly in both gardening and agriculture and that a far more sustainable approach would be to use a lot of hand labor to control weeds.
I did end up getting the garden paths and beds nice and clean by the time the season ended and I promise to be diligent about getting the leaves raked in from now on.
My biggest garden triumph was the building of a very rugged and useful tomato trellis using t-posts and bamboo stakes. The tomatoes loved it and I’ll be refining this approach for future tomato growing.
I expanded my herb bed and was amazed at the power of oregano as a pollinator attractor. It was loaded with insects of all types, especially bumblebees, for most of the summer and well into the fall.
One insect that was not as plentiful as in other years was the Monarch butterfly. We had a few, but their decline may be apparent in my own backyard.
Several crops performed exceptionally well for us this year, including coles of all types. In addition to the beautiful violetta italia cauliflower, we had a never ending supply of broccoli raab, some really nice cabbages, great Brussels sprouts, and Red Russian kale is now a plentiful volunteer that has to be treated as a weed.
We probably had our best onion harvest ever. Unfortunately, the leeks did not fare well due to my planting them too deeply. A lesson learned and a reinforcement of the home gardening mantra of “don’t worry, plant enough different stuff, you will always get something.”
Peppers were great, too and we heard from other gardeners that this was a good year for them.
On a road trip restaurant stop, we learned about using peas shoots as a vegetable and now they will be part of our harvest along with the peas, themselves.
Our worst garden pests continue to be mammals, not insects. Deer and woodchucks would consume most of our tender crops if we did not fence, trap, and let the dog run.
My most faithful garden helper is not the dog, but Boots, who is always assisting with weeding, harvesting, and providing company even if it may not be totally wanted.
I’m looking forward to 2015.
Potato Rösti was on the dinner table last night. We had this dish for the first time almost 30 years ago right after we moved to Wisconsin. Noel’s Swiss boss took us to the New Glarus Hotel Restaurant in the village of New Glarus, WI – Wisconsin’s Little Switzerland. There are many versions of rösti but this one is my adaptation of a recipe given to us by our dear friends, Michael and Linda.
2 lbs. potatoes (I used Colorado Rose potatoes from the garden)
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1 onion, thinly sliced (red or white)
1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
4 T. Olive Oil, divided
2 T. Butter
½ tsp. salt, or to taste
Early in the morning or the day before, simmer the potatoes in their skins until barely cooked or slightly underdone – do not overcook. Drain the water and chill the potatoes in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight. When ready to make the rösti peel the potatoes and shred. Toss with 1 T. olive oil, ½ tsp. salt, divide mixture into two portions and set aside.
Using 1 T. olive oil sauté the sliced onion for 5 minutes then add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle with seasoned salt to taste and set this mixture aside.
When ready to cook the rösti preheat a 10” cast iron pan to medium low. Add 2 T. olive oil and 2 T. butter, making sure to swirl the grease up the sides of the pan. After butter is melted add one half of the shredded potatoes and press down evenly in the pan. Spread the cheese over the top of the potatoes followed by the onion mushroom mix. Add the second half of the shredded potatoes and again press down evenly. Run the spatula around the edge to shape the cake and pull the potatoes away from the edge of the pan. This will make it easier to remove from the pan when ready to turn it. Do not stir the potatoes, you want them to stick together.
Fry the first side for 20 minutes, adjusting the heat if necessary, so it doesn’t burn. Loosen the potatoes and place a large plate over the top of the frying pan. Using hot mitts flip the pan onto the plate. If you’re lucky the rösti will come out in one piece. Slide the cake gently back into the pan and cook for another 20 minutes. Use a little more oil if necessary. I didn’t need to, the pan looked slippery enough as it was.
Cut into wedges and serve from the pan or slide it onto a plate before cutting. Although making rösti is time consuming it’s well worth it because it’s unbelievably delicious.