Garden Meditations

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Some may see a six inch plant… but a gardener sees a patch of lush orange pie pumpkins!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we nurture a big garden every year. Planning begins in late winter with seed sorting and dreaming, followed by starting indoor transplants in very early spring. As seedlings Continue reading

Herb Compound Butter

WIN_20160507_194649‘Tis the season for fresh herbs!

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Step 1: Combine 1/2 cup real butter with 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs. Blend until evenly combined.

Fragrant, beautiful, and delicious, fresh herbs are bountiful in early summer. It’s easy to take big bunches of basil, long sprigs of rosemary, and cheerful sprigs of parsley, mint, oregano, and thyme for granted this time of year. (I forgot cilantro, tarragon, lavender… you get the idea!)

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Step 2: Transfer butter mixture to the center of a large piece of waxed paper.

Frugal cooks know that the season for fresh herbs is relatively brief. Once the very hottest days of summer arrive, delicate herbs begin to wilt and bolt, their best flavors gone for another year. Don’t worry, though – the flavors of early summer herbs are easy to preserve. Herb Compound Butter is the easiest, most reliable method for preserving herbs here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. Let’s get started!

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Step 3: Roll the waxed paper closed and refrigerate the compound butter until firm. Slice into small rounds for serving or cooking. Freeze in a covered container until needed.

Herbs don’t freeze well on their own – they discolor and lose flavor pretty quickly. However, herbs blended into butter freeze magnificently! The butterfat protects the delicate herbs, preserving their color and flavor. Every cook knows that herbs and butter taste wonderful together, so why not combine them for preservation? That’s really all “compound butter” is – butter blended with one or more ingredients. So easy!

What herbs should you use? Whatever herbs you like! Fresh springs of rosemary blended with real butter are one of my favorite flavor combinations. You may find that parsley blended with butter suits your palate, or perhaps a combination of oregano and thyme is more your style. Experiment! Enjoy!

In The Garden: First Harvests

Moving into late July, my Northern vegetable garden has been growing for almost eight weeks. This means – finally! – the first vegetables are being harvested here at Crowded Earth Kitchen! Weather permitting, we’ll enjoy increasingly bountiful harvesting for the next six to eight weeks. So exciting!

Here’s a peek at some of what’s happening In The Garden:

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Banana peppers, always the first peppers of summer, are bountiful this year.

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Ground cherries, a new garden addition, are coming along nicely.

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The first of the hot peppers are turning red!

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Broccoli heads are about six inches in diameter.

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Zucchini are surprisingly late this year, but are finally growing strong.

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We’ve picked about two quarts of beans so far.

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With a new net to protect raspberries from the birds, we’ve harvested a whole quart of berries so far. Happily, we’ll be able to pick again tomorrow!

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Poblano peppers, typically harvested near the end of summer, are already growing rapidly. So delicious…

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Cucumber vines are just beginning to produce. We hope to begin canning pickles in another week or two.

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The greens bed has exploded with chard and kale. Self-seeded tomato plants are peeking through the chard leaves, and will offer a cherry tomato bonus in September.

In The Garden, Week 1!

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Pineapple Mint, Orange Mint, and Sage

Gardening season has finally arrived! Growing my own food is really my favorite part of cooking. Few things are as satisfying as creating a meal from fresh, healthy ingredients grown by my family. This summer, Crowded Earth Kitchen will feature a weekly post with garden updates. A few summers ago, our $200 gardening investment led to a harvest worth over $2,000. Can we do better this year?

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German Chamomile (I can hardly wait for tea!)

Gardening is part art, part science, and part dumb luck. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen we rely pretty heavily on dumb luck! We are lucky to have enough growing space that we can garden badly and still end up with a bountiful harvest. It’s not that we try to garden badly (sometimes, our garden is beautiful), but it’s nice to have room for mistakes.

Important: Crowded Earth Kitchen grows organic food, entirely free from herbicides and pesticides. We believe strongly that these toxins have no place in a backyard garden. Stay tuned for tips on poison-free weed and pest control!

Below are a few photos from the garden we began planting just this week. Watch for growing updates! As we begin to harvest food, we’ll feature seasonal recipes from the garden. When we begin picking by the wagonload in autumn, you can count on lots of canning and preserving recipes here at Crowded Earth Kitchen!

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Lavender in the front garden

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Russian Sage in the front garden

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Beet sprouts tucked among the petunias in the side garden

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Compost buckets with drainage holes. Each bucket is surrounded by four plants (32 tomato plants, 12 pepper plants, and a few odds-n-ends). When the buckets are filled with water, they pull nutrients from the compost deep into the soil, encouraging the plant roots to grow deep and strong.

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30 foot rows of red and yellow seed potatoes, purple and white onions, okra, multicolored carrots, and green beans. The space between the rows needs to be weeded already!

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The side bed of chard and peas took an unexpected heavy rain, which crowded the seeds into one small area! No worries, we’ll just thin them out and plant the bald areas with a few lovely kale transplants.