The Charmed Garden

From Planning to Planting, and from Harvest to Table.


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July’s Gems

Hello Everyone

Well it’s finally time to enjoy the many fruits, and veggies, of your labor.  This year my goal was quality over quantity.  In my enthusiasm, and over abundance of seeds bought on discount at the end of the growing season, I have continually over planted. So, with an eye to a heartier crop, I actually thinned my seedlings. The proof is in the photos.

After many years of swamping my family, oh and the dog, in a jungle of veggies, I actually think I got the balance right and did not over plant. Here are last year’s pictures, and this year’s. I’ll let you be the judge.

My hubby and our puppy being swallowed by our veggies

My hubby and our puppy being swallowed by our veggies last summer .  .  .  coming

. . . and going

. . . and going

Now here’s photos of the same space, with the  plants rotated and reorganized.

Same space, different year. Here is the garden coming . . .

Same space, different year. Here is the garden coming . . .

. . . and going

. . . and going

A big difference this year was  moving all of the tomatoes to the side of the garage and expanding the bed just enough to make room for the Romas, or plum, tomatoes.

Time to Freeze Your Greens!

It’s been hot enough long enough here in the suburbs of Chicago to finish off our greens. We had a slow start but the last few weeks have done it for my spinach, lettuce and kale.  In fact I’ve given in and have harvested nearly all my kale and am getting ready to parboil it for freezing. The only place I’ve been able to find frozen kale around here is Trader Joe’s, and it’s intermittent.

My green's bed, full of Chard, Spinach, Kale and Lettuce

My green’s bed before harvest, full of Chard, Spinach, Kale and Lettuce  – oh those spindly greens flopping over the bed in front of the Kale are my epic fail radishes. Those babies I didn’t thin and so very few were more than thin roots.

You can see the spinach tops are thin as they have been repeatedly cut for omelets and salads and have now started to go to seed. The lettuce is as about as big as it can get before going to seed.  The large blue-green leaves are Kale and it is large and in charge. If it isn’t harvested now, it will be an unpalatable leathery texture, and sure you can chop it, massage it, and saute it, but it will still have an unpleasant texture to most people.

To prep Kale for freezing, you don’t need to do anything different than you would if you were preparing it for dinner.  Strip the leaves from the stems, rinse thoroughly, and chop. Submerse in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process.  Lay the leaves out to dry, and/or put leaves between towels and pat to get as much water off the leaves as possible. Then place in freezer bags, squeeze out air, and seal tight. Here’s a handy tip from my Auntie.  Freeze single servings in smaller freezer bags for convenience. That way you don’t have to thaw more than you plan on using, and the bags are reusable if you wash and dry them.

Beautiful Broccoli 

I have harvested and frozen most of my broccoli. Here’s the cool thing about harvesting this plant. Once you harvest the head, shoots will grow out of the sides. We pick the shoots to toss into frittatas.  Fresh from the garden, even our 26 year old son, who would eat a shoe if it was fried and/or  had cheese on it, likes broccoli.  Here are some photos of the shoots.

Kinda cool huh? The shoots will get bigger but not as big as the original head. As for freezing, My Aunt Lo’s  ancient Good Housekeeping cookbook (oops, its copyrighted 1963 – so not that ancient because its 2 years younger than me) recommends soaking the heads in cool, salted water, to leach out any bugs. Seeing as how two ear wigs found their way out of the freshly harvested mound of broccoli sitting on my table, even before I could get them to the sink, I decided this advice was wise.

After soaking, chop to the size you like, and parboil in salted boiling water for 3 to 4 min, or just until they turn bright green. Then rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process, and if possible, put into an ice bath.  Lay the bounty out to dry. I put mine on cookie sheets and enlist my family to pat them dry between a towel. Then freeze in the size bags that work for the size of your family. We freeze several single serve sizes for our younger son who actually loves broccoli. It’s not that he too wouldn’t enjoy a good fried shoe covered in cheese, but he would actually prefer that as dessert, after his meat and broccoli, with an ice cream chaser.

Hopefully this will inspire you to enjoy your greens longer with a little extra labor. Happy Harvest everyone