Garden Fridays: Better Late Than Never

by Shawnda on March 27, 2015

in Garden

White Peach Tree

I am borderline maniacal about starting my spring garden as early as possible. I’m typically standing at my backdoor, tomato seedlings in hand, waiting on that magical last frost date of mid-February.

And because I’m a native Texan, I know that what “last frost date” really means is that we’ll get two near-hard freezes over the next 4 weeks – one guaranteed during spring break because Mother Nature is a punk – and then stuff like this happens.

Tomatoes

Yet I have never let that stop me from planting “too early.” My timehop over the last two weeks has been sad-funny: pictures of frost-bitten baby peaches, wilted tomato plants, and freeze-damaged citrus leaves.

This year, however, I’ve just been too caught up with family stuff to get things in the ground.  Which is why 10 days ago, my spring “garden” still looked like this. (I’ll spare you the gratuitous shot of foot-tall weeds in the neglected beds.)

Tomatoes
Tomatoes
Tomatoes

(I’ll also spare you the f-bomb laden retelling of finding out that one of the beds was basically a 32 square-foot fire ant bed. But there were fire ants. And there were many, many f-bombs.)

But now the beds are neat and half-filled and fire ant-free, the citrus trees are beaming with new life, and the white peach tree that supplies my timehop with an endless supply of disappointment? It is going strong.

[knocks on wood] [crosses fingers] [throws salt at a black cat standing on a broken mirror under a ladder] [shakes booty] If that doesn’t get me white peaches this year, nothing will!

Lady bug in white peach tree

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll show you how we built the garden boxes last spring, the layout of our backyard (it might sound big from the citrus tree list, but it’s just your standard size suburban plot), composting, staking tomatoes, and anything else I can think of that looks helpful.

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

I’ve mentioned it before, but if you’re looking for a good gardening reference or just a starting point to get you moving in the right direction, I highly recommend flipping through The Square Food Garden Method.

Lady bug in white peach tree

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s in the ground right now:

Bed #1 (8×4)
2 zucchini
4 broccoli
2 cucumber (I’m gonna hate myself for this)
1 butternut squash
32 Texas 1015 onions
Chives
1 Super Sweet 100 Tomato
1 Big Beef Tomato
1 Tami G Tomato
1 BHN 602 Tomato
1 Mariglobe Tomato
Space for kale and spinach seedlings (gonna hate myself for these, too)

Persian Lime Tree

Bed #2 (8×4)
24 green beans
1 Juliet tomato (these are my favorite non-San Marzano tomatoes in the whole wide world)
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 “Extra crazy hot” (we’ll see) Jalapeno
1 Eggplant
1 Better Bush Tomato
Sage (last year’s plant, hacked waaaay back)
Space for 4 San Marzano and 4 Beefsteak tomatoes
~5 empty squares

I started San Marzano and Beefsteak tomato seedlings a few weeks back but they’ll go into the ground with my summer plantings, mid- to late May.

Tangerine tree in bloom

Citrus & Fruit
White Peach
Yellow peach
Rio Star Grapefruit – new this year, replaces the rockstar tree that my former lawn guys killed
Lime – new this year, replaces the one my former lawn guys killed (we now no longer have lawn guys)
Blood orange – planted 2 years ago
Orange – planted last year
Key Lime – planted a few years back but it is on life support.
Pomegranate – Maybe this is the year we get an actual pomegranate!
Dwarf Pink Lemon – ~6 years old, back from the brink of death
Celeste Fig – Planted 3 years ago, total rockstar
Tangerine – new, still in 3-gallon pot. Mistakenly grabbed it instead of a lemon. Oops.

Container Gardening: Mint

Container Gardening
Pot o’ Basil
Pot o’ Rainbow Carrots (Landry loves growing carrots)
Pot o’ Milkweed for the Monarchs
Pot o’ Mint because that $#%& never dies

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Chili and Citrus-Roasted Broccoli

I have 3 cups of crushed red pepper in my pantry. We have had such amazing production the last few years from our pepper plants that I’ve not only made my own crushed red pepper, but I’ve also made my own chili oil (and I’ll show you that soon).

I will absolutely guaran-darn-tee you – once you do either yourself, you will never ever ever go back to the orange sawdust on the spice aisle again.

Ever.

Chili and Citrus-Roasted Broccoli

In addition to the crushed-red-peppering of everything, we also go through a lot of steam-in-bag broccoli. It’s quick, easy, and checks the “something green” box on the dinner menu. Because let’s be real: sometimes there’s just no reason to raise the bar on a busy weeknight veggie side. And considering I often also eat broccoli for breakfast (don’t judge), there’s no reason to raise the bar on a busy school-morning breakfast either.

But if you’ve got a few extra minutes, there are many, many things you can do to a head of broccoli that will beat the freezer bag. A simple roast with some oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon is the easiest. And if you’ve got time for a simple roast, chances are you’ve got an extra 67 seconds to zest an orange and grab the chili oil from the pantry.

Chili and Citrus-Roasted Broccoli

These broccoli florets were coated with olive, sesame, chili oil, orange zest, and a squeeze of orange juice. The chili oil only lends mild heat to the broccoli so if you aren’t cooking for a 5-year-old like I do, then double the chili oil.

And now that the homemade veggie side is taken care of, feel free to balance things out and serve it along side a freezer bag stir-fry. That’s what I do :)

Chili and Citrus-Roasted Broccoli

Broccoli florets roasted with orange zest and chili oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head or 2-3 crowns of broccoli, cut into florets (you want a single layer to fill a large baking pan)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chili oil (double it for more heat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Small orange, zested and then cut into wedges
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Place the broccoli on the baking pan.
  3. Drizzle the oils, garlic, and orange zest over top and then toss to evenly distribute everything - I use my hands and just roll things around until I'm happy.
  4. Season with a generous pinch of salt, several grinds of black pepper, and then squeeze half the orange wedges over top.
  5. Roast for 8-10 minutes, toss/flip, and then roast for another 5 minutes.
  6. Squeeze remaining orange wedges over top and enjoy.

Notes

Yields: 4-6 servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 25 minutes

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Asparagus and Zucchini Noodle Carbonara

I got your green food right here.

And bonus, it’s coated in a sauce of parmesan, black pepper, and just a leeeettle bacon grease – just the way God intended fake pasta to be.

Asparagus and Zoodle Carbonara

If there’s one thing we take seriously around here, it’s margaritas. And if there’s a second thing, it’s carbonara in its many beautiful forms. No cream, no extras. Just parmesan, eggs, black pepper, and (in the case of real pasta) a splash of pasta water.

When we substitute zucchini, we first run the squash through a spiral vegetable cutter (I have a Spiralizer and I adore it) to make zucchini noddles. Zoodles! (I love that word even more than my 5 year old.) Then the zoodles get a quick high-heat stir-fry to soften and remove some of the excess water before proceeding with the standard carbonara recipe.

Asparagus and Zoodle Carbonara

What you get is a bowl full of vegetables in a deceptively not-overly-unhealthy sauce. Without a cup of cream or a bottle of green food coloring to be found.

But still, bacon.

Asparagus and Zoodle Carbonara

A healthier pasta carbonara made with zucchini noodles, bacon, and parmesan.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ~1/4-inch squares
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into ~3-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan (~1.5 oz by weight) plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/4 lb zucchini, cut into spirals (I have this tool)

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat and cook the bacon until crispy.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a large bowl (big enough to mix everything together at the end) and leave behind as much of the bacon drippings as possible (you want ~1 Tbsp of oil in the pan).
  3. Grind a generous amount of black pepper into the pan and add the asparagus and a pinch of salt, cooking for ~5 minutes until fork-tender.
  4. In the bowl with the bacon, add the egg, yolk, and parmesan and whisk it all together.
  5. Add the asparagus to the bowl and mix well for ~10 seconds to melt the cheese and prevent the egg from scrambling from the heat of the vegetables.
  6. Return the pan to the heat and add the zoodles, cooking uncovered and stirring frequently for ~5 minutes (there should be no standing liquid in the pan).
  7. Scrape out the pan to get all of the black pepper and bacon goodness into the bowl with the asparagus mixture.
  8. Use a large fork and spoon to toss the zoodles and mix well. Serve immediately.
  9. Best on the day of cooking - the zucchini will release a little more liquid after sitting a while and will create a standing thin sauce as leftovers. It's still delicious, but messy.

Notes

Yields: 2 generous servings

Adapted from Zucchini Carbonara

Estimated time: 30 minutes

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