Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Conserve Water in the Garden

Scarlet Runner Beans in Garden
Established Beans Don't Need Much Water

Compiled by Robin

In these days of water restrictions and drought throughout California, conserving water is more important than ever. Knowing the needs of each plant in your garden will help you water efficiently for maximum harvest and minimum water waste. I’ve gathered together some general watering tips as well as specific advice on how to water 15 of Santa Cruz county’s most popular home garden crops. Even during years of plentiful water and in areas of adequate rain, gardeners might consider the unpredictability of the weather and possible climate changes. Careful water use protects our future resources as well as lowering our financial commitment to the garden.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Low Sugar Mirabelle Plum Jam

Plum Jam Being Spread on an English Muffin from a Pot
After a Jam Session

Recipe by Robin

Yellow plums and apricots seem similar, but they’re nothing alike to the food preservationist. True, they both belong to the Prunus genus and can be hybridized into such oddities as apriplums, plumcots, pluots, and apriums. But plums have more sour flavor components, thicker skin, and lots more water than apricots. Many plums also have less pectin than apricots. So tweaking my apricot jam recipe to preserve our Mirabelle plum tree’s bountiful harvest has been challenging. At last, after 3 years of experimentation including large batches that did not gel, batches that gelled too much, and over-sweetened batches, here is the perfected low sugar plum jam recipe.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spicy Plum Sauce

Cooking pot with plums, onion, garlic, and ginger
Savory Ingredients with the Sweet

Recipe from Jon

Because our Mirabelle plum is an overachiever, producing huge amounts of sweet-tart yellow plums every year, I’ve wanted to make plum sauce for a long time. This year my new friend Jon, a master of sauces, dips, and all things Asian, graced me with a recipe. This plum sauce has the characteristic sweet-sour-pungent flavor interplay, plus quite a kick from the red chili flakes and large amount of ginger. In truth, I didn’t quite use the recommended chili dosage, choosing instead a heat zone with moderate and pleasant afterburn. The key is to taste the mixture at various points as you prepare it. Jon points out that tasting is also important to achieve your ideal level of Chinese Five Spice. Different batches of Five Spice and red chili flakes vary in strength, so feel free to fine-tune this recipe to your own tastes and ingredients.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Spring Broccoli Salad with Radishes and Lime

Colander of broccolini, peas, asparagus, and peas
Drain Veggies before Dressing

Recipe adapted from LoveRadish.co.uk

My husband and I will be traveling in England soon, so we hosted a Brit Night to hear stories and look at books and photos provided by our Anglophile friends. Of course, the menu needed to match the theme. My first attempt at Beef Wellington was a given, but being Californian at heart, I wanted to add a salad. “Traditional British salad” sounded like an oxymoron until I discovered LoveRadish.co.uk. This UK-based radish appreciation website contains scores of recipes for unusual salads as well as sandwiches, slaws, and snacks. Radishes are England’s first spring crop, and the harvest continues into mid-autumn. This salad pairs radishes with the early season harvests of purple sprouting broccoli, asparagus, and spring peas. Though we’re just past spring, I pushed the season by substituting frozen peas, with tasty results.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Zucchini Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

Frosted Zucchini Cake Floating on White Plate
Squash Never Looked So Good

Recipe by Leslie and Robin

Anyone who has grown zucchini knows the agony and the ecstasy of a bountiful harvest. Even when planted near other squash or in a square foot garden, zucchini tends to entangle the entire area. It crowds out all other plants. Tiny zucchini hide beneath large leaves and become huge monsters in no time. That’s why this recipe was written. My beloved ex-roommate Leslie perfected it throughout two growing seasons—a number of decades ago—when our garden zukes were going crazy. I’ve enhanced the honey flavor by adding a bit of salt and sugar. The cake is extremely moist, without using a lot of oil. Maxing out the zucchini content does the moisture magic.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Quick Marinated Beets

Bowl of Marinated Beets Garnished with Parsley
Colorful Addition to Meals

Recipe by Robin

Long before I started Seasonal Eating, I loved making up recipes. Most of the time I just cooked them, but sometimes I wrote them down. I was not an organizer by nature, and had recipes scattered throughout my hard drive and on miscellaneous odd sheets of paper here and there. Often the notes were cryptic, scrawled so that I couldn’t read, much less interpret, my own writing. I lucked out on this recipe though. Hidden as it was in the depths of an old hard drive, it recently surfaced after a major crash and restoration. Perhaps the only reason I suffered the hard drive crash was to lead me back to this simple beet recipe. Maybe.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Parsley New Potatoes

5 Potatoes on Plate Topped with Parsley
Just Like Mom Used to Make

Recipe Inspired by Mom

My mom had a thing for parsley potatoes, especially parsley new potatoes. Back when I was growing up, most New Englanders simply boiled their potatoes, but Mom insisted that parsley improved both flavor and eye-appeal. At the time I didn’t appreciate her obsession, but now have grown nostalgic for those days and for my long-departed Mom. And she was right, parsley is the perfect enhancement for young potatoes. The flavor and aroma of this dish take me back in time. Or perhaps it brings Mom forward, since I can feel her looking over my shoulder as I work, and imagine her eyes widen with delight when the dish is completed.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Live Earth Farm Solstice Celebration

Farm Workder Displaying Flat of Strawberries
Organically Grown Strawberries are Farm Worker Friendly

Watsonville Farm Specializes in Community Outreach

Any frequent visitor to Santa Cruz county Farmers’ Markets knows about Live Earth Farm—if not by name, then by berries. Look for a booth with a large tiered table full of organic strawberries and raspberries in front—that’s Live Earth Farm. They’re the best berries ever—try the samples and you’ll see. This weekend we’ll have a chance to visit the source of these berries, and to “U-pick” as many as we like at the Live Earth Farm Solstice Celebration on Saturday, June 21. This event features activities and fun for the whole family, starting at noon. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spring Chopped Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

Serving of Chopped Salad with Dressing
Dressed for Dinner

Recipe Inspired by Salad for Dinner

Chopped salads are frequently found on Los Angeles menus, and I can see why. Consisting of hardy fresh vegetables topped with assorted cheeses, meats, and condiments, these wilt-proof salads are perfect in hot weather. As temps top the high 80s in the Santa Cruz mountains—and we get lots of fennel and cabbage in our CSA share—it’s time to get chopping. The idea of chopped salad is that a variety of veggies are cut into a similar size and shape, then goodies like chicken, capers, olives, onion, and cheese are added. A quasi-Mediterranean invention, this salad is usually dressed with an herby vinaigrette. Sturdy ingredients make leftovers stay fresh and crunchy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spring Peas with Mint

Basket of Peas and Mint
Fresh Green Spring Ingredients

Recipe Adapted from The Secret Garden Cookbook

Peas are the quintessential springtime crop. One of the earliest harvests of the year, springtime peas are particularly favored in snowy climates. Where few fresh veggies are available in winter, people particularly appreciate signs of spring. In Victorian England, before large-scale transportation of foods, peas were even more popular to grow and eat. According to The Secret Garden Cookbook, the pea plant was dubbed “prince of the vegetable garden,” and Victorian recipes called for up to 4 cups of peas per serving.  This delightful recipe pairs peas with perky mint, another favorite springtime flavor from the garden.