Welcome to my Western Pennsylvania garden. Join me on a "Walk Down the Garden Path".

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Zucchini - Mock Crab Cakes

If you are overrun with zucchini and are tired of having it fried, grilled, or made into zucchini bread, this is the recipe for you. I got this recipe from my husband's parents and I am not sure where they got it since it's just copied onto a piece of paper. But this is very tasty and worth a try.

Mock Crab Cakes

2 cups coarsely grated zucchini, unpeeled (about 1 medium)
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 onion finely chopped (you can grate this if you want to)
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 egg, beaten

Drain grated zucchini and onion in a colander to let some of the liquid drain out.
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
The texture can be adjusted. If it's too dry add another egg; if it's too wet, add more breadcrumbs.
Shape mixture into patties, dredge in flour.
Heat vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until hot.
Fry patties in oil until golden brown on both sides.

When I made this I had to add some more breadcrumbs. I used olive oil to fry, not a whole lot, maybe a couple of Tablespoons. I don't measure things like that, I just do what looks right to me. The patties I made where soft but they did hold together. It was messy to make them, but I didn't want them to be too dry. Here are some photos.

While I was frying these up last night, I was thinking of the corn fritters my Mom used to make us with the night before's corn on the cob (cut off, of course). Those were always so good and a special treat. I'll have to get some extra corn from the farmer's market so I can make them and share the recipe with you, after I get if from my Mom :-)

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Story of a Poor Butterfly Bush

I have to admit that I am ashamed to have to call this "The Story of a Poor Butterfly Bush", with poor being the operative word. I am so ashamed, I didn't even take a before picture. There is no way I could post it, so why even bother taking it.

My husband planted this bush at least a couple years ago on one of our problem banks. This is where the trouble starts. Our property is riddled with these banks which are covered in vetch which, if you want to keep the hillsides cut down it is a time consuming job better suited to a mountain goat. But since it was a nice sunny spot and he was optimistic about being able to maintain this area, that's where he planted it.

Since it is not really in a nice and tidy bed, it had been forgotten this year. And for various reasons, we haven't been keeping the hillsides as trimmed and the grass cut as short as we have in the past. This is not really a problem because it is very rural where we live, but back to the Butterfly Bush.

I didn't even realize it was still alive. But a couple of weeks ago my husband asked me if I had time during the day, would I clean out around it. So last week, on one of those gorgeous days, I did just that. Part of the reason for waiting is that it had been too darn hot to be wearing boots out in the yard. And now you are asking, why would you have to wear boots. The first reason goes back to the fact that despite all my hill climbing work, I am not a mountain goat and I don't want to twist my ankle working on these hills. The second reason is this guy or some relative of his, whom I was afraid might be lurking about on the hillside.

This guy was in our garage on Saturday, but more on him at a later date.

So with my boots on, I was able to clear out all the vetch and cut out the dead branches. I then put some mulch around the base to try and discourage the vetch from coming back. The result is this. Now, I know this still doesn't look great, but it's a vast improvement from the before.

You can't really tell from the picture but there are several flower heads getting ready to bloom. So soon, this guy will have another choice for his dining pleasure.

Thus ends our tale. It is a hopeful ending. Hopeful that I can keep things nice for our dear Butterfly Bush and it can thrive here at our lovely home and become a feeding ground for many lovely flying friends.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Coffee Bean, Rose, and more Volunteers!

Look at what I saw while walking around the garden (in between weeding, of course).

Remember the Coffee Blooms ? Here's the first bean I've found. I guess I'll be able to make a baby doll teacup sized coffee.

Here is a pretty pink rose in bloom, with several more buds. This poor rose was once the queen of this bed, but now the Coneflower has taken over and the rose often gets lost and overlooked - not today though!

And look at this brave sunflower. It grew in a pot with a young maple that is waiting to be planted. And it did grow out horizontally like this.

And here is a Cleome a.k.a. Spider flower. We had one last year and it self-seeded, yeah! I found two in the bed where it was last year and one growing in another bed. Here it is early in the day, and then in the evening.

And my last volunteer for today is this Oregano plant. When we first moved into this house, six years ago, I brought an oregano plant in a container from my apartment. Prior to living in a container on the apartment balcony, it lived in the ground at my old house, where I grew it from seed. The second or third year we lived here, I planted the oregano in the back of the vegetable garden where it grows quite nicely. Before it found that home, however, it dropped it's seed, here in the crack of a stairwell and it comes back year after year. How it ever grew to begin with, and how it comes back year after year, amazes me. You see, there is no dirt. Right now there are some dead leaves/grasses covering the base and I have to make sure it's watered almost every day, but somehow it survives and thrives here, just growing out of a crack in the stair.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Squash and all things viney update!

Yesterday was such a beautiful day here in Western PA - blue sky, no humidity. Which meant I had to get out there and take care of some of those weeds, pick some squash, do some watering, and check on the general health of the garden. I still have more work to do, but lucky me, today is a repeat of yesterday, so I should be able to get back out there soon, for another full day in the garden.

Here are some squash I picked last week. The large one is another mystery squash. It seems to be a cross between a zucchini and spaghetti squash. It's leaves look like zucchini but it vines, and well, you see the result. It was a volunteer just like the rest of the squash shown in this picture. Once I decide what to do with it, I'll let you know how it turned out.

And here are the zucchini and yellow squash I picked yesterday. I think we'll be eating zucchini all weekend. But I should have a few new zucchini recipes to share with you next week.

Finally, I can see a baby cantaloupe. Hopefully it will start growing fast.

And here is another baby butternut squash. It's brother was munched by a deer, hopefully he will have a better fate and be munched by me! I just love the curl of the vine tendrils.

This one is a Kabocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin. It's a winter squash, similar to buttercup squash. It's my first year for this one and I'm excited.

This was another volunteer and another mystery. At first I thought it was going to be an acorn squash but now I think it's too rounded. It looks kind of melon like. Any ideas, anyone ?

And here was a nice surprise. This cucumber was a volunteer, growing in the bean patch. So maybe I will have some cucumbers before the end of August - lol!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lacy Flowers

I have been thinking about Queen Anne's Lace lately, because it is blooming profusely here right now and it has always been a favorite of mine. When I was a child, it grew along our lane and we would pick it and put it in a glass of water with a couple drops of food coloring and the flower would change colors. This of course, was great fun. Besides that, it is such a pretty, delicate flower and the name is so fancy sounding.

When I was wondering through the garden the other day, I was noticing how lacy the Cilantro / coriander was looking. It's flowers reminded me of Queen Anne's Lace. The first year I tried to grow cilantro in the garden I thought it was a waste. The plant I had bought went to seed almost immediately and never got thick with leaves. Well, was I wrong. Every year since then I have had a whole section of cilantro the comes back from self-seeding. In the spring there are plenty of leaves for picking. And when you just walk by this area and you can smell the fresh cilantro. It's delicious.

And then there is the dill. I've posted this photo before but I like it so much I am going to post it again. It reminds me of fireworks. I can't wait for the dill seeds to form because I like to collect them to use in the kitchen. And if I ever get any green beans, maybe I'll make some dilly beans and use the dill heads in the canning jars.

What lacy flowers are growing in your garden ?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Refrigerator Pickles

One of my favorite things to make in the summer are Refrigerator Pickles. I guess I could make them year round, but somehow they just taste better in the summer.

Since the deer had munched my cucumber down and my new ones are just little plants still, no flowers even, I had to buy pickling cucumbers at the store. Not really a problem since they are unwaxed and pretty easy to find this time of year. You can also use other veggies in addition to or in place of the cukes. Some of our favorites are cauliflower and carrots. The pickling mix also suggests green peppers and cabbage, though I've never used either of those.

This time we used the Hot Pickle Mix (not really hot at all). The brand I use also offers a Bread and Butter Pickle Mix and a Dill Pickle Mix.

We use a gallon size glass jar (previously containing store bought pickles). First, fill the container with your cut up veggies, whatever you want to use. Then, following the package directions, dissolve sugar in vinegar, then add the pickle spice mix. We always make more of vinegar and sugar mix than the package tells us to. I don't know why, but when made as directed, there never seems to be enough liquid. Pour this over the veggies. Some water can be added if more liquid is needed to cover everything. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. We always mix it up occasionally, and of course you have to try them before 24 hours is up! These will last up to 3 months, however not in our house! As we eat up the veggies, I will add new veggies to the mix. We'll keep doing that until we want to make a different type. I only have so much refrigerator space you see, and I can't keep a whole shelf of pickles.

This really makes a great low-calorie snack and is so flavorful. If you've never made them, you should give them a try.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Garden Blogger Bloom Day - July 2008

GBBD snuck up on me this month. I can't believe we're at the 15th already. The summer is really zooming by and I'm still waiting for a red tomato.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Blogger Bloom Day. Be sure to stop by her site and visit all the other participants.

There are lots of blooms right now, throughout the flower beds, the garden, and the yard which is quickly turning into a meadow since our mower is broken and we are still waiting on the part which will *hopefully* fix it.

These are Dahlias that I received from my Grandmother at least 10 years ago. I have to bring them in for the winter but I love them because I always think of her when I see them. You can see I still have some pansies blooming. They are still looking ok despite the heat.

I have a couple of Hosta varieties starting to bloom. This was the only one actually blooming. I don't know any of the names though.

Here you can see Balloon Flower next to Santolina.

Here is an overall view of that bed. It is mostly annuals but it is one of my favorite beds because it looks so good and is easy to maintain.

In this bed the Coneflower is raging, there is a little vining black-eyed susan, and a plant I only know as Sunspot in the back. There is also Lavender, Shasta Daisy, and Lantana which you can't see from this view.

The Black-Eyed Susan is also in that bed, on the other side of the Coneflowers. It was just starting to unfurl it's petals.

This one is hiding it's face with it's hands, getting ready to play peek-a-boo. (Can you tell I have a baby LOL!)

Over on the sunny side of the big garage, the trumpet vine is taking over. You can't tell from this picture but it is all over the roof and will be cut back later this year. Also blooming in this bed is more Coneflower, and Lamb's Ear. The Hostas in this bed have been considerably munched by the deer so no blooms yet.

I have many blooms in the herb and vegetable garden, but I'll just post this one of the Dill, since it's July and to me this looks like Fireworks exploding. Also blooming in the herb garden: Golden Thyme, English Thyme, Wooly Thyme, Cilantro/Coriander, Basil, Irish Moss (not for eating, just for looking at), and the Oregano is just about to bloom. Also in the garden blooming are many squash and melons, the beans (despite the lack of many leaves), tomatoes (I may have a good crop this year), eggplants, tomatillos, peppers, onion heads, and the volunteer cucumber.

Throughout the yard/meadow are many wildflowers including Butterfly Weed, little Daisys, and Queen Anne's Lace.

Lastly, I must post my monthly picture of Lillian. She is always happy to go about the garden and likes to examine flowers in very close detail before she shreds them.

Happy Bloom Day! I hope your garden is buzzing with blooms and beauty!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Kohlrabi and The Mystery Squash

Many years ago, my sister Michelle gave me this cookbook for my birthday - "Garden Way's Joy of Gardening Cookbook" by Janet Ballantyne. Then one time when I was moving, I lost it. I knew it at the time and I searched and searched for it but I never did find it. So I had to buy another copy, because this is the most awesome cookbook if you are a vegetable gardener. It has a section for every vegetable you can imagine, with so many different types of recipes. If I am inundated with any one thing, I just go here and get some new ideas. I use it so much in the summertime.

Which brings me to the kohlrabi. I always plant a few kohlrabies because my husband really likes them. Several were ready to be picked last week, so I now have them in the house. A lot of times we will just eat them raw with salt, but I was looking for something different. So I pulled out my cookbook and found several saute recipes. Below is the one I chose to make and it was delicious.

Kohlrabi Basil Saute
from Garden Way's Joy of Gardening Cookbook by Janet Ballantyne

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
4 cups diced kohlrabies

Heat the oil in a large saute pan and add all the ingredients. Saute for 8-10 minutes, or until the kohlrabies are tender. Serve at once.

We also ate the mystery squash. To me it is a cross between a white pumpkin and a patty pan squash, and it was edible. I peeled it because the skin was tough, but not really thick. Then I sliced, marinated, and grilled it. I left the seeds in because they didn't seem too big or too many, but I think next time I would take them out.

I love fresh from the garden meals, don't you ?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Vile Liquid

Well despite all of the fences we installed to discourage the deer from romping through our garden, one deer still was visiting the all-night buffet and snacking on melon leaves, beet tops, pumpkins, and zucchini, and yes, I mean the actual pumpkin and zucchini. Basically everything that came within it's path, which we could see from the hoof prints in the dirt. And then it would exit through the garden gate, knocking it over each time.

Enough, I had procrastinated long enough. When my Big Max pumpkin leaves were chomped off (luckily not all of them, I think a recovery can be achieved), I got out the blender. I had a jar of old cayenne peppers from a garden past, dried and stored away for some purpose, at the time not knowing how I would use them. Today I knew. I would make a potion so vile, if that deer took one bite, it would get the surprise of it's life.

Here's my witches brew.
A bunch of dried cayenne peppers
Several heads of old garlic
Tabasco sauce
Just a splash of canola oil (to help adhesion)

I whirled it all up in the blender, strained the liquid into a spray bottle, and went to work.
Warning! If any of these steps can be performed outside, do it. If not, proper ventilation is essential. The oils released by the peppers caused me much sneezing and gasping if I breathed too closely to it. Also, be careful not to touch with your hands or get in your eyes.

I sprayed all the plants in the garden. And this morning I am happy to say nothing was touched. I added more water to the leftover ground bits of pepper to let it steep for a new batch. I'll reapply every couple of days or after rainfall. I hope this finally solves my deer problem.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Help - What is this ?

I am appealing to you for help with identifying this squash like thing. On my garden diagram I have it listed as Patty Pan Squash but it doesn't look like what I think of patty pan squash to be. Maybe because of the color, this is very white and the patty pans I grew in the past were more pale green. Because the shape looks similar to what I think it could be. I am trying to decide if it's ready to be picked and if it can indeed be eaten. I may have to pick one and experiment. Since I have it labeled on my chart I must have bought it this year because the mystery volunteer plants I transplanted from other parts of the garden are labeled as such and are definitely more vining (probably gourds or pumpkins). This plant is more bushy, like a zucchini. Please comment with your thoughts and ideas. I thank you in advance.

I am also posting this picture of flowering onion heads just because I like it. It makes me think of outer space - each round flowering head being an enclosed orb space station where a whole community of people could live.

And here is a picture of those evil deer creatures. In this photo they are far from the house and the little ones are looking deceptively cute. But beware, they have been known to cause much crying, wailing and cursing!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hummingbird Takes a Drink!

I was going to call this Hummingbird Captured on Film! But I couldn't because it was taken with a digital camera and Hummingbird Captured on ? what do you even say, I don't know.

Anyway, my Husband was very patient and he snapped this photo with our little digital camera, not even a digital SLR. I think it turned out pretty darn good and I wanted to post it to share with everyone.

Meanwhile, at the oriole feeder, there hasn't been much activity except for the ants. I think I put the feeders out a little late this year so next year I will start earlier.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day - July 2008

Gather Ye Roses
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Gather ye roses while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying;
A world where beauty fleets away
Is no world for denying.
Come lads and lasses, fall to play
Lose no more time in sighing.

The very flowers you pluck to-day
To-morrow will be dying;
And all the flowers are crying,
And all the leaves have tongues to say,--
Gather ye roses while ye may.

Many thanks to Carolyn for hosting Garden Bloggers' Muse Day. Be sure to visit her site and check out all the verse posted for this day.

I chose "Gather Ye Roses" because I think it's important to remember to enjoy the garden and life, "stop and smell the roses", so to speak. It's so easy (at least for me) to let all the tasks that need to be taken care of overshadow the beauty in front of us. May your enjoyment of the day and your life be your dominating goal and the necessary tasks that take us from day to day, secondary, but never forgotten. For all too soon it will be fall and then winter and we will pine for the blooms of summer.