Grilled Eggplant Parmesan ~ Fresh Garden Style ~

From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

2 eggplants (1 1b. each)
1 & 1/2 cups heirloom tomatoes cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese grated
1/3 cup parmesan cheese grated
3 large cloves garlic chopped or crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons of fresh basil chopped (extra leaves for garnish)
1 lb. cooked spaghetti
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut tomatoes into small 1-inch pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, basil, oregano, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with hands. Put aside. Do not refrigerate. You want it room temperature.

Cut eggplant into half inch round pieces. Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on hot grill. Cook until tender. Add a mixture of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese to the top of eggplants and cook until cheese is melted.

Drain tomatoes in a colander to get rid of the extra juices before adding the tomatoes to the dish. You can stack the eggplant, tomatoes, and extra cheeses to your desire. Enjoy!

From Mike’s summer garden: eggplant, heirloom tomatoes and sweet basil.

It’s Always a New Beginning for Gardeners.

Thinking about the beautiful creation stories explored in the services of the eve of Rosh Hashanah that our Jewish friends celebrated yesterday reminds me that for the gardener, things are never really at an end.  There’s always something new to begin in the endless cycles of life.  Whether it is Rosh Hashanah or the upcoming Autumn Equinox or any of the lunar celebrations, every culmination or harvest is also a time to begin something new.

The need to keep beginning is especially true for the food gardener, especially if you want to keep eating.  So many foods are dependent on seasons – cool season, warm season.  It may seem with the great ripening of tomatoes that the vegetable garden is complete this year, but if you want to keep eating, you need to keep planting: cool season crops, lettuces, sturdy greens that you can eat on all winter.

Some of the things it is time to begin:

Begin a hoop house or cold frame.
If you haven’t already seeded fall greens or carrots and beets, make haste and do it right away.  They need to grow to a good size before winter, so you can harvest even through the snow.

Begin a leaf pile.
Are you ready for collecting fall leaves and beginning again (or adding to) your leaf mulch pile?  Leaves are going to fall….and if you’re ready, your neighbors will bring you all the leaves you want.  A simple sign in your driveway that says “Bagged Leaves Wanted”  will catch the attention of your neighbors who want an easy way to recycle.  Our neighborhood gets over 2000 bags a year that people drop off.  The first year was only about 300 bags….but each year it has grown till we quit counting after 1000 or so.

Begin to fertilize perennials.
If you fertilize with natural fertilizers like blood and bone meal, now is a good time to begin fertilizing perennials and shrubs.  Natural fertilizers break down slowly so Fall is the best time to put them (and compost) out around your plants so they have time to soak in all winter.  Synthetic fertilizers like Miracle-Gro should wait until Spring because they’d stimulate a growth spurt now when the plants should be shutting down.

Begin to clean up.
Start cleaning up diseased leaves and broken plant debris.  Your plants will be healthier next year.

One thing NOT to begin:  Don’t cut down green growing plants because you’re anxious to put the garden to bed.  Some minor experiments have proven to me, that plants that are allowed to die in place and get cut down in later winter or early spring have a better survival rate than plants that get cut down in Fall.  This is especially true for Agastache one gardener I know discovered.

Begin to plant a TREE!
A REALLY IMPORTANT THING TO BEGIN NOW:  Plant a tree.  There are often healthy trees on deep discounts at garden centers.  The best time to begin a tree in your garden is always RIGHT NOW.

Grilled Summer Garden Sandwich

From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

Grilled eggplant, squash, red bell peppers, and onions, topped with provolone and mozzarella cheese, fresh sweet basil, and sriracha mayo, served on a toasted garlic roll.

Coat veggies with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and place on a hot grill. Cook until veggies are tender. Spread a mixture of crushed garlic and butter on the insides of the bread and place on grill until bread is slightly toasted. Cooking the veggies and garlic bread on the grill will give this sandwich a really wonderful smokey flavor. Place veggies on buns and top with provolone and mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and sriracha mayo. The sriracha mayo is what sets it over the edge. Enjoy!

Sriracha Mayo

3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

Mix, the above ingredients in bowl or cup. You can cover and place in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Depending on how many sandwiches you are grilling, you can double and triple the recipe. I made more to dip our crispy fries in. So good!

**Sriracha usually can be found at most large food chains in the Asian section

From Mike’s summer garden: eggplant, yellow squash, red bell peppers, onions, and sweet basil

Grilled Fish Taco with Heirloom Tomatoes and Roasted Jalapeno & Lime Mayo

From the Gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

Grilled Fish

•      6 (4 ounce) fillets tilapia
•      ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
•      ¼ tsp. cumin
•      1 tsp. olive oil
•      sea salt and black pepper to taste
•      2 cups sliced heirloom tomatoes
•      2 cups chopped cabbage

1. In a small bowl, combine cayenne pepper, cumin, ground black pepper, and salt. Brush each fillet with olive oil, and sprinkle with spices.

2. Arrange fillets on grill grate, and cook for 3 minutes per side. Place fillets on a warm corn tortilla, add chopped cabbage, tomatoes, and drizzle with roasted jalapeño and lime mayo.

Roasted Jalapeño and Lime Mayo

**This mayo goes with just about anything. Try putting in on a grilled chicken club sandwich, turkey burger, or as a dip for crispy french fries.

•      2 jalapeno peppers or any mild to hot peppers
•      ½ cup of mayonnaise
•      2 cloves garlic
•      1 green onion
•      1 lime, juice and zest
•      1 tbs. cilantro
•      1 large basil leaf
•      sea salt and black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place jalapeño peppers on a backing sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Roast for about 20 minutes, until the skin is slightly blistered. Remove from the oven, and place in a ziplock bag. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them, and discard the skin, seeds and core.

2. Place all ingredients except salt & pepper in a food processor, or blender, and puree until smooth. Season with sea salt and pepper. You can refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Enjoy!

From Mike’s summer garden: jalapeno peppers, heirloom tomatoes, green onion, cilantro, and sweet basil. 

“Summer Pie” ~ Heirloom Tomato & Gruyere Cheese Galette

Heirloom Tomato “Summe Pie”

From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

•      1 12” Pie Crust (store bought or your favorite recipe)
•      4 cups heirloom tomatoes, preferably cherry to small sized
•      1 cup of grated gruyere cheese
•      5 large chopped basil leaves
•      2 cloves minced garlic
•      1 tsp. olive oil
•      ½ tsp. minced fresh rosemary
•      ¼ tsp. sea salt

1.   Place oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 375°F.

2.   Slice tomatoes in halves and add to a medium bowl. Add a half cup of gruyere cheese, 4 chopped basil leaves, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. minced rosemary, and ½ tsp. sea salt to bowl and toss with hands.

3.   Roll out pie crust and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. If you don’t have parchment paper, a greased cookie sheet will do. Spread the other (almost) half cup of grated gruyere cheese over the piecrust. Make sure to save a little cheese for the top of the galette after it has slightly cooled.

4.   Spread mixture over piecrust leaving about 2 inches on the sides.  Fold the sides up and over the mixture. I brushed the sides with an egg mixture and sprinkled a little sea salt on the crust. So good!

5.   Bake until crust is a golden brown. Usually 35 to 40 minutes. Let pie slightly cool. Sprinkle the remaining gruyere cheese and sweet chopped basil on top. Enjoy!

From Mike’s summer garden: heirloom tomatoes, sweet basil, and rosemary. 

Get Your Diseased & Gnarly Tomatoes OUT!

It’s August and hot, not the most fun time in the garden, but you’ve got to go out and EVICT all the diseased and dying stuff out of your garden.  You’re not doing for this year’s produce…you’re doing to save your garden next year.

In Colorado with our warm winter and early hot Spring, we are inundated with pest problems.  Most on our minds today is the spotted wilt virus on tomatoes which makes pretty concentric circles on the tomatoes, but leaves the fruit tasteless and mealy…and kills the plant long before frost.  As depressing as it is to toss plants you’ve nurtured since they were just baby seeds, they’ve got to go. They aren’t going to get better and the virus will just get spread around your garden.

So get out there with your wheelbarrow and do some decluttering.

Tomato plants with spotted wilt virus or mosaic virus or even some nasty blight:  OUT! And not into your compost pile…they go right in the garbage.

Other plants with serious disease problems:  OUT!  You’re never going to eat those gone to flower broccoli covered with powdery mildew.

Weeds that have grown four feet tall when you weren’t looking are now going to seed.  Somehow huge prickly lettuce and thistles keep appearing out of nowhere with big seed heads.  OUT!

It won’t take long to clean up the big stuff….this is one of those 15-minute projects.  15 minutes now will make a huge difference later. 15 minutes now gives the good healthy tomatoes more light and space and water to make lots of fruit before frost.  15 minutes now means you pull all the diseased fruit and leaves out easily now instead of trying to retrieve dead rotting fruit and diseased leaves after frost has caused leaf drop.

And while you’re at it:  those big huge zucchini bats:  OUT.  Pull ’em off the plant so that nice tender young zucchinis can grow.  You’re just not likely to eat as much giant zucchini as you’re growing.  Let go of the guilt and send them to enrich the compost.

Ignoring what “they” say.

by Sandy Swegel

I visited a garden yesterday tended by my friend Lou.  Lou has gardened for other people for many years and the heavy shade garden I visited has lots of color despite being in shade and the fact that we’ve been in high temperature, drought conditions.

As we walked around and she told me some of the secrets of the garden’s success, I found myself thinking, “But “they” say not to do that.”  Things like “they” say native plants don’t want rich soil and shouldn’t be fertilized like other garden plants.  Hah. Her well-fed natives were twice the size of mine.  Or “they” say dahlias don’t do well in shade and need full sun.  She had twenty magnificent blooming dahlias that begged to differ.  And she used all kinds of plants the opposite of what the labels say:  Euonymous species, sold as shrubs, were tough interesting reliable groundcovers when kept short by pruning.

My favorite gardeners have always been the ones who don’t do what “they” say without thinking about what might actually work.  My first experience was an older gentleman who had grown tomatoes for 70 years by the time I met him.  He had tried all the tomato techniques I ever heard of.  “Epsom salts,” he guffawed…”don’t do a thing except make the tomatoes taste salty.”  “Water has to be consistent.”  He had watered every day with soaker hoses since they had been invented.  So as I watched him fertilize, I expected some down-home advice.  Instead, I watched in horror as he just spooned tablespoons of dry Miracle Grow crystals right next to the tomato stem.  “But, but…” I stammered, “Aren’t you going to burn the plants and kill them?”  Nope….they just got watered in slow-release-like with each soaker hose watering and he had the best tomatoes in town.

That still didn’t match the shock of watching my friend Barbara.  She definitely walks her own path and is agreed by all to be the best gardener we know.  She never fertilized with fertilizers. She composts and mulches and puts goat manure and earthworm compost on everything, but she has never bought a bottle of something and put it on her yard. Geraniums bloomed in containers for fifteen years with only compost and maybe grass clippings in the bottom of the pot for the earthworms to eat. The most startling part of watching her garden was that she never treated pests.  Sawflies came two years in a row and ate every single leaf on her six-foot-tall gooseberries. They looked terrible.  She made sure the plants were watered and had lots of compost, but said the plants needed to figure it out if they wanted to survive. It was up to them to figure out how to defend themselves.  She just made sure the garden environment was good.  To my amazement, the plants survived and put out new leaves, and the third year the beetles didn’t return.  Who knew?

I still do lots of things “they” say because much is based on someone’s research and experience.  But I keep an open mind. Every time somebody gives me a lecture about the right way to garden or what “they” say I should be doing, I ask myself, “Who is this ‘they’?” “And who gave them all the power?”

 

Seeds in the Garden

by Sandy Swegel

Now that we’re at the peak of summer, you’ll start to notice that your garden is likely to have more seeds than it has flowers.  The heat and long days of summer have stimulated seed formation in most plants and this is a good thing.  Don’t just deadhead the seeds and compost them… there are lots you can do with flowers gone to seed.

Collect the seeds to grow again.

Once seedheads have dried a bit (turned brown) and the seeds are loose, you can collect the seed…either to save in paper envelopes for next year or to spread around the garden now where you’d like them to grow next.  When collecting seeds to grow next year, pick the healthiest plants with the best color. You probably know that some plants are hybrid and don’t necessarily come true from seed…but sometimes they do, so I like to risk it.  This year we let a squash grow in the compost pile even though everybody knows squash don’t come true, but it was cute…and now we’ve been eating great acorn squash a month earlier than the garden’s because the plant didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be good.

Eat the seeds.

This is especially yummy before the seeds mature when they are still green and tender.  Green herb seeds and cool season vegetable seeds are little flavor powerhouses.  It’s time to nibble on broccoli flowers or herb seeds – cilantro, dill, fennel, anise, even basil.  All the flax in my wildflower patch has gone to seed.  I’m gathering them to sprout and either put on salads or dehydrate into crackers.

Gather the dry seeds for birdseed in winter

Sunflower and flax seeds are some of the seeds that birds like, so I gather extra dry seed to put out in January for the chickadees. I leave most of the seed on the ground for them… but sometimes it’s hard for a tiny bird to find seeds through a foot of snow.  Besides, if I put the seeds in the bird feeder, I (and the cats) get the pleasure of watching through the kitchen window.

Let the seeds be.

You can grow perennial beds of annuals.  There’s a phrase to get your head around.  The plants don’t overwinter but by letting the seeds drop, they replant themselves.  Let the cilantro and dill and parsley and leeks seed themselves around and you never have to start those seeds again.  The little seedlings will produce good plants for you this fall and some will wait for Spring to grow.  I love it when Nature does all the work.

What to do with Giant Zucchinis

What to do with Giant Zucchini?

by Sandy Swegel

It’s only July and already there is the challenge of the giant zucchini?  I’m remembering last winter when I paid
$2 for a tiny organic zucchini and resolved not to do that again this winter.  One treat I’ve grown fond of are vegetable “chips” and zucchini are great candidates.  Anything to sneak more vegetables into the day.  You can bake zucchini into chips but then you’d have to turn on the oven and heat the kitchen.  That’s why I like the raw food route of dehydrating the chips.  Here’s what I did today with two big zucchini:

I made one batch just plain to see how they taste.  The other batch I briefly marinated in balsamic vinegar.  There are so many other things you can sprinkle on the zucchini slices: salts, oils, ground peppers, and various herbs. But for my first run, I wanted as much zucchini-ness as possible.

I keep the dehydrator on low (about 105) to preserve enzymes and nutrients.  The plain zucchini chips were done to crunchiness in about 5 hours.  The marinated ones will need another 6 hours or so.

And here’s a bowl of simply finished zucchini chips.  Yum.

Mid-Season Garden Report Card

Mid-Season Garden Report Card

by Sandy Swegel 

Here’s the report card for my garden. June had record high temperatures and little rainfall.  Lots of extra watering helped, but plants don’t grow as well without natural rainfall.

Lettuces and Spinach. The heat made them bolt early and they are all bitter or simply scorched and gone to seed. Time to pull them out and replant.

Chards and Kales.  The chards started to bolt but some judicious removal of seed stalks and they are still growing and yummy.  The kales look great.  I didn’t know they were so tough under stressful situations.

Peas.  Pod peas were done early…they went to seed almost instantly. Sugar peas actually were not too bad.  Not as tender as usual, but salvageable….although the season was very short. Like other crops in this heat wave, things just grew really fast and went to seed.

Cilantro. Long since gone to seed.

Dill and Leeks. Leeks have gone to seed but they are beautiful.  Dill has started to seed but still usable.

Beans. My beans are OK, but neighbors have had failures from pests.  There’s still time to replant and have beans this year.

Peppers. The superheroes in our heat.  Lots of irrigation combined with heat have made them flourish.  Tomatillos too.

Tomatoes. The verdict is still out.  They are growing and strong.  Not as many diseases as I feared in a stressful year.  But not so many tomatoes either. They quit flowering in extreme conditions.  The plants themselves are shorter than other years at this time, but I’m hoping a week of cooler temperatures will inspire them to start cranking out tomatoes.

Broccoli. Little heads early this year,  but they are still producing side shoots.

Bugs. Our warm winter enabled too many pests to survive the winter, so there is an abundance of flea beetles and slugs. The greens are ugly and holey….but perfectly good to eat.  Aphids and ladybugs balanced out.  There appear to be lots of young grasshoppers but I’m pretending not to think about them.

So how is your garden faring?  Just like in school, mid-term grades are just an indicator of how things are going…not the final grade.  So get out there and yank out the struggling plants and reseed and replant in their places.  There’s still plenty of time for producing lots of food