Friday, August 13, 2010

Zucchini Across the Pond (Courgette, If You Please)

I just found a zesty zucchini/courgette and rice recipe from a kindred spirit in the UK. Her blog is Diary of a Mad Gardener and the zucchini/courgette recipe is here. From her rantings about slugs, I think I can learn from her battle experience against the slimy dark side.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Drying Herbs

This is our first year in our new house and it's my first year to enjoy my expansive herb garden. I am experiencing a bounty of fresh herbs and plan to start the drying process this week. Here is my game plan:

1. Wash your cut herb leaves and stems. Let herbs "drip dry" in a colander or mesh wire basket.
2. "Spin out" water by wrapping wet herbs in dish cloth and making big, bold arm circles (this is best performed outside because water will fly out due to centrifugal force).
3. Place herbs in a safe spot where water can fully evaporate. Evaporation may be hastened by exposing the herbs to a breeze in a shallow, loose basket, or a wire tray. Personally, my favorite method is to place the herbs loosely upon newspaper, inside my house, but near an open screened window. Bonus points if it's a sunny window.
4. Flip/turn herbs daily until all water is fully evaporated. For small batches, the ole tie the herbs in a bunch and hang upside down may be the easiest method. However, make sure most of the water is gone before bunching herbs together.
5. Keep turning herbs until all delicate parts are "crispy."
6. Now for storage. There are two options: 1) store as is, twigs and all or 2) crumble by hand and separate leaves from twigs, storing only the fragrant leaves.
7. Store in an airtight container. My easy method includes clean glass jars looking for a new life: old pickle jars, salsa jars, mayo jars, etc. However, if you use this method, make sure the jars are extremely clean and dry. You will likely want to wash the jar, air it out for a few days, wash it again and then dry. If the jar is not fully and truly clean, your dried thyme will taste like stale dill pickles - no one wants stall dill pickle thyme seasoning.
8. Note: if your herbs are not honestly dry, you will end up with mold in your dried herbs. Consequently, I wait until I think my herbs are dry beyond all dryness and then let them dry another three days.
9. Store in a cool, dry place. I put mine in the pantry or basement.
10. Have extra herbs? Dry some for friends and give home-dried herbs as a hostess gift. You'll be the prize of the party!

Sage advice from [pun completely intended]:

The practice of storing powdered herbs in paper or pasteboard packages is bad, since the delicate oils readily diffuse through the paper and sooner or later the material becomes as valueless for flavoring purposes as ordinary hay or straw. This loss of flavor is particularly noticeable with sage, which is one of the easiest herbs to spoil by bad management. Even when kept in air-tight glass or tin receptacles, as recommended, sage generally becomes useless before the end of two years.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Zucchini Kiku

Kiku is a Persian or Arabic dish that has many variations. This is a great recipe to serve as a side dish or even as a main entree. The portions below serve approximately six adults.


3 medium zucchini, cut into julienne or grated
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (keep two salt measurements separate)
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 eggs
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (commercially available ground pepper may be substituted)
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
1 cup grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

1 heavy skillet (cast iron is best)
large mixing bowl
9x13 inch casserole baking dish

Preparation: Using 1 tablespoon sea salt, salt cut zucchini; place salted zucchini slices into a colander and drain for 30-45 minutes; rinse and squeeze dry in a clean dish towel.

Kiku Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Using a heavy skillet (cast iron is best), saute zucchini for about 1 minute in extra virgin olive oil. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon and mash up with a potato masher. Saute the onions and garlic until golden and add to zucchini. In a separate large mixing bowl, beat eggs with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, ground pepper, lemon juice and saffron mixture. Stir zucchini and onion mixture into mixing bowl, combining with eggs, salt, pepper, lemon juice and saffron. Pour fully combined ingredients into a well-oiled (olive oil is best) 9 inch by 13 inch pyrex (or other brand glass baking dish) pan. Just before placing in oven, sprinkle top of kiku with 1 cup grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese. Bake about 30 minutes at 375 degrees or until top is browned. Cut into squares and serve.

Eggplant Kiku Variation: omit zucchini and use 2 large eggplants, about 2 pounds total, peeled and cut int 1/2 inch squares. Mix eggplant squares with sea salt and leave in a colander to drain for about 1 hour. Rinse well and pat dry. Mix with sauteed onions and proceed with recipe except omit cheese or substitute for a hard white cheese, such as Parmesan or Romano.

Spinach/Herb Kiku Variation: omit zucchini and use 2 cups cooked, chopped spinach, squeezed dry and mixed with one bunch chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon chopped dill and 2 tablespoons chopped chives. Mix with sauteed onions and proceed with recipe except omit saffron and use 1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin.

Recipe inspiration from Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon, pages 440-41.

The Great Giver: Zucchini

Once zucchini is up and running, get excited because this baby produces some serious bounty! What to do with all that great zucchini? Here's an all time favorite:

Mom's Zucchini Bread (the classic) (recipe credit to

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts)


  1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.
Note: When I tried this recipe it was really sweet. In fact, my husband calls this "zucchini brownies"! Next time I make this recipe, I will use just under 2 cups sugar instead of 2 1/4 cups sugar.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Today I am making chicken stock. I did not have enough carrots for the recipe so, I decided to prematurely pull up some baby carrots from my garden. They are TINY and ADORABLE! I cannot wait to see the rest of the crop when they are full grown! Note the root bear bottle cap placed in the picture for scale.

Sunny and Simple Pesto Ideas

There's nothing like fresh pesto on steaming pasta or as part of a delicious pizza! Also, you cannot beat pesto as a bread or veggie dip that is brimming with garden yumminess. The beauty of pesto is that you can eat it fresh or freeze it in small serving sizes. My mother and I often whip up enough pesto for the present meal as well as enough to fill the cubes of an ice cube tray. Once pesto is frozen in cubes, it can be popped out and transferred to another storage container. Presto, you now have pesto frozen in single serving amounts and you can thaw as needed!

Here is a basic pesto recipe:

1/4 cup nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, etc.)
2 cups packed chopped raw herbs/greens (basil, kale, parsley, cilantro, etc. Best if only one type is selected)
1/2 cup grated hard cheese (Parmesan, Romano)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or other citrus)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (regular salt may be used, but sea salt tastes WAY better)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. DONE and done. Serve and enjoy!

Whole Foods recently published the following pesto combos:

Classic: pine nuts + basil + Parmesan
Sunny: sunflower kernels + parsley + Ramano
Omega-3: walnuts + kale + Manchego
Southwest: pumpkin seeds + cilantro + Vella Dry Jack
Vegan: cashews + arugula + 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Friday, June 4, 2010

Babies Fighting the Cold

My garden babies are fighting hard to make it despite the very cold and rainy weather. Someone should call the clouds and let them know it's June... time to give us some sun!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hot House

Currently being germinated for open field planting:

Muskmelon Cantaloupe: Hearts of Gold (75 days)
Winter Squash: Early Butternut (80 days)
Watermelon: Moon & Stars (95 days)
Winter Squash: Table Gold Acorn (95-110 days)
Pumpkin: Howden (110 days)

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Local Market

I love that there is a fresh Farmer's Market located near my neighborhood! The King location of the Portland Farmer's Market is open Sundays from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. The market runs May 2 until October 31. This is my first year to enjoy this particular farmer's market. Thus far, we've been able to score some really great eggs, cheese, and plant starts. Thanks to the vendors for bringing such delicious treats up here to the Northeast!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Just in the Ground:

I have no re-potted my peonies, azaleas, hydrangea, gerbera daisies, lavender, rosemary, some native grasses, nasturtium, cosmos and snap dragons.

I added chard and kale to my greens garden. All accomplished during a very short rain break :)

I also prepped my melon bed and started with a few strawberry plants and two pumpkin plants. I am hoping to grow my pumpkins for our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie!

Cukes Need Water, Mellons Don't

I just learned a valuable lesson while reading The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. Namely, that direct watering cools of the heat needing melons and slows down growth. Carla says "If you live in a marginal climate for melons and want to help them along, don't water them - or water only around the edge of the hill, not on the plants." Meanwhile, cucumbers need plenty of water during their growing season. I was planning to create a "creepy viney" section of my yard for pumpkins, melons, winter squash, and cucumbers. After reading her garden veggie section, I plan to move the cukes to a section with other plants that I will water often once the rain stops. Thanks Carla!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Curious: Two Egg Joints

I cannot get enough of a good breakfast. There is nothing more luxurious than strolling into a sunny breakfast spot, getting snuggled into a warm seat, relaxing while a friendly waiter brings me a cup of strong and mellow joe and then devouring some savory eggs. It gets truly divine if you add a buttery, crumbly biscuit. Currently, my absolute breakfast hero is the Bakery Bar on Glisan. If you haven't had their cracked pepper biscuit, then you haven't really lived. Plus, they source their eggs from their same neighborhood - using eggs only from the most eco-pampered layers.

That said, I just read some reviews that made me interested and curious in trying two new joints:

Tasty n Sons
3808 North Williams Avenue (in the Hub Building)
Portland, OR 97227
(503) 621-1400

Little Red Bike Cafe
4823 North Lombard St. (between Fiske and Jordan)
Portland, Oregon 97203

I hope Bakery Bar won't feel like I'm cheating, but I do think these two joints may be a delicious treat as well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Collards: Green Around the Collar

Note to self: when you harvest your scrumptious collard plants from the seeds you started in mid-April [Morris Heading Collards, seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery], please remember this delicious post by Good Stuff NW regarding some new and jazzy ways to enjoy Collards. The collard-changing post is titled Eat Your Greens.

Bring on the sassy greens!

New Adventures Scheduled, Thanks Lelo!

I just stumbled upon the blog Lelo in Nopo. Being a fellow NoPo gardener, I was really Jazzed. Thanks to Lelo, I now have the following dates on my calendar. The events below are pulled from her suggested garden adventure list in a post titled Portland Gardeners Mark Your Calendars Now.

Bauman’s Greenhouse Gallery
Saturday-Sunday, April 24-25, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., 12989 Howell Prairie Rd., Gervais, free admission,

Spring Garden Fair
Saturday, May 1, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, May 2, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Clackamas County Event Center Fairgrounds, 694 NE 4th Ave., Canby, $3,

Behind the Scenes Garden Tour
Features some NoPo and NEPo gardens.
Saturday, July 10, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., tickets will be available online,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sharing Crops Seed Starts

Jacklyn and I headed out to John's farm to take advantage of his very generous offer to "babysit" our seed starts in his heated green house. We had a blast carefully filling and charting our starts for SEVEN (yes, you read that correctly SEVEN) flats of seed starts. The tomato flat had 36 large start pellets, but the other flats were the standard Jiffy variety that house 72 little seed babies. You do the math... I couldn't have made it without my fearless team member. The wind really picked up as the morning progressed. Notice we added some layers before all was said and done. I cannot wait to go back and check on my babies in 10 days. I will be even more excited when we plant the starts in the our new community garden in St. Johns!

Me with the tomato flat and Jacklyn with a "regular" flat, also filled with tomato seeds:

I was using the fork to fluff dirt, however, this does not explain my very weird pose in this picture. We had to put rocks on the lids to hold them down against the mighty winds.

Some of my baby tomatoes:

All of the flats, COUNT THEM! We put the babies under newspaper so as not to sun shock them while we worked. I cannot think of a better use of my beloved Wall Street Journal:

Friday, April 9, 2010

St. Johns Community Garden Flyer

I am loving this flyer! This just in from the amazing St. John's volunteers. Props to Kathleen for cooking this up!


To say that Rachel and I bought a lot of seeds today would be an understatement. We are both zanny gardeners with big imaginations, and even bigger dreams for the St. Johns Community Garden @ Red Sea. We purchased seed starting flats from Home Depot and most of our seeds from Garden Fever. Surprisingly, the prices were better at adorable Garden Fever. We tried to buy as many seeds as possible from Nichols Garden Nursery located in Albany, Oregon. Our next choice focused on seeds from Botanical Interests or Seed Savers Exchange. Where neither brand had what we wanted, we went for the cheep stuff, but don't get your garden gloves in a bunch, we did our best to stay organic, local and heirloom (we want to teach others how to save seeds). Here's what we bought (remember seeds last more than one season!):

Bloomsdale Spinach [Botanical Interests]
Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Morris Heading Collards [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Garden Rocket Arugula [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Yugoslavian Red Lettuce [Seed Savers Exchange]
Nichols Mesclun Mix [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Red Giant Mustard [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Neon Color Mix Swiss Chard [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Sea Kale [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Redventure Celery [Nichols Garden Nursery]

Dill [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Thyme [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Cilantro [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Curled Chervil [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Bronze Fennel [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Genovese Basil [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Nichols Spicy Basil Mix (including Anise Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Clove Basil, and Thai Licorice Basil) [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Dolce Vita Blend Basil (including Cinnamon, Genovese, Tall Lemon, Lime, Mammoth, and Purple Petra Basils) [Botanical Interests]
Common Chives [Botanical Interests]
Rosemary [Nichols Garden Nursery]
True Greek Oregano [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Blood Veined Sorrel [Nichols Garden Nursery]

Green Zebra [Botanical Interests]
Brandywine [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Oregon Spring [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Stupice [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Willamette [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Jelly Bean Red & Yellow Grape Tomato [Botanical Interests]
Windowbox Roma Tomato [Nichols Garden Nursery]

Early Jalapeno Chile Pepper [Botanical Interests]
Fast and Sassy Sweet Pepper [Nichols Garden Nursery]

Luscious Sweet Corn [Nichols Garden Nursery]

80 Yellow Onion Bulbs (from Home Depot - does not include any other details as to what type of yellow onions)
80 Yellow Rock Onion Bulbs [Irish Eyes]
Walla Walla Sweet Onion Seeds [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Evergreen Hardy White Bunching Onion [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Scarlet Nantes Carrots [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Carnival Blend Carrots [Botanical Interests]
Four Color Mix Beets [Nichols Garden Nursery]

Early Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash [Botanical Interests]
Black Beauty Zucchini [Botanical Interests]
Yard Long Armenian Cucumber [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Small Sugar Pumpkin [Nichols Garden Nursery]
Moon and Stars Watermelon [Seed Savers Exchange]
Table King Bush Acorn Winter Squash [Botanical Interests]
Waltham Butternut Winter Squash [Botanical Interests]
Sugar Snap Peas [Botanical Interests]
Snow Pea / Sugar Pod Two [Seeds of Change]
Purple Podded Pole Bean [Seed Savers Exchange]

Nasturtium (Jewel, Mixed Colors) [Ferry-Morse]
Wildflowers: Hummingbird & Butterfly Mixture (includes Alyssum, Arroyo Lupine, Bachelor Button, Black-Eyed Susan, Coreopsis, Indian Blanket, Mission Red Monkeyflower, Painted Daisy, Purple Coneflower, Scarlet Bugler, Wallflower, White Yarrow) [Stover]
Blue Flax [Ferry-Morse]
Calendula [Nichols Garden Nursery]

Mammoth Sunflower Seeds [Stover]
Autumn Beauty Sunflower Seeds [Stover]

Now to figure out what my starts will be... The seed starting crew is meeting early Saturday morning!

Sharing Crops - Fresh Pot - More Seed Starts

Good morning, I'm blogging from one of my favorite coffee shops: Fresh Pot on Mississippi. I'm here with my Wall Street Journal, decaf latte, and paper to plan out my seed starting project tomorrow.

I am really excited about a community movement I've recently joined. Currently, we call our cobbled group of gardeners and community activists SHARING CROPS. We meet two weeks ago under the common mantle of bringing the best, freshest, organic produce to those in the lowest income bracket. Often, when the budget gets tight, fresh produce is the first to go. Please see Food Inc. if you've not thought about the challenges of being on a tight budget and trying to eat "fresh." Sharing Crops elected me their fearless organizer and so far, I have been totally jazzed by the eager community support and enthusiastic volunteers.

Here's how the North Portland community has gotten involved: (1) A church in the St. Johns area of North Portland (Red Sea Community Church) has given our motley crew permission to farm a vacant lot they own across the street from their church. I think the sight is about one half acre of gritty rocks and weeds. (2) One of the local coffee shops, Anna Bannanas, has agreed to supply us with mega coffee grounds.

We have a vision to infect St. Johns with fresh produce. We are going to harness our collective gardening and leadership skills to help the community grow enough produce so that all of the immediate neighbors will be able to sample the divine fruits and veggies. We have our first big community work day on site April 24. This brings me to why I am at fresh pot this morning.

A guy who heard about our vision has offered his green house for us to nurture our seed starts. Are we late in the season for starting seeds? You bet. But, we are undaunted and hopeful to grow something this year. More importantly, we want to prep the property for an abundant harvest next year. We hope to blend planter boxes, a mini orchard, and open field, high yield farming to introduce the neighborhood to backyard garden delights.

I have thus transitioned from roof top loft gardening in Los Angeles to full on field gardening in Portland. Despite the differences, I am up for the challenge. I feel like I've read about one hundred gardening books since last season. Thus, I feel confident standing on the shoulders of how-to book and blog giants to serve the neighborhood of St. Johns. Here's hoping for success and more donated plots in the Portland area! Now to figure out when tomato plants should be placed in the garden here in Portland... feel free to chime in!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Garden Play List

There's nothing sweeter than some soul lifting music playing as you wack weeds or plant seeds. My newest recommendation is Hey Marseilles. I heard them live this past Thursday at Mississippi Studios. First of all, they rock. Second, these guys are really talented musicians. Hey Marseilles has maybe seven guys in the band, but it sounds like they have 15 because they all play multiple instruments. They delighted and amazed me by constantly switching instruments - both among each other and by pulling from the pile of horns or string instruments or drum sticks cobbled at their feet - and by the passionate intensity with which they played. Their vibe rings of nineteenth century Parisian street performers colliding with modern-day singer/songwriters. If you ever have the chance to see them live, DO IT. The album is dreamy and the live show is like a soul awakening (and much louder and richer... well, maybe I just have pathetic speakers here at home).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

And We're BACK!

Long story short, I left the big law firm mistress for my real life. Back to gardening! So much has happened already this year in my garden world. First, I'm splitting time between Los Angeles and Portland. Second, I've started a garden club here in Portland. Third, since I don't yet have my own yard (house negotiations ongoing), I am engaging in lawn-sharing (other lawn-share enthusiasts) with a delightful pro gardener. She has more yard than she has time to cultivate and I have the need to cultivate. Match made in heaven. Yesterday, we spent more than five hours building raised bed boxes, churning soil, adding fresh delicious soil, working the compost pile, and planting peas. Are we later in the season than I'd hoped? Sure. But, we're making progress! Too boot, a group of high school girls interested in gardening joined us for the day. They worked hard and really enjoyed the learning experience! Most had never planted seeds in their entire life. I LOVE spreading the gospel of gardening.