Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Squash Soup

I got this recipe from a friend of mine who also had an abundance of squash in her garden this year.  It was absolutely delightful!

Squash Soup
2 Tbsp butter 

1 medium onion, chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled, cubed (I used buttercup)
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried marjoram leaves 
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp cumin (or to taste)
1- 8oz cream cheese, softened, cubed

Melt butter cook onion, mix all ingredients except cream cheese. Cover, cook on low 6-8 hours, place a 1/3 at time to blender or food processor (or use an immersion blender, as I did) and blend til smooth. return all to slow cooker, stir in cream cheese, cook another 30 minutes on low. Stir until smooth. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Onion Follies

Just when I start to feel like a "real" and not "pretend" gardener, I do something silly that humbles me into remembering that I'm new to this whole gardening thing.

Today's humbling experience involved onions.  Last summer was the first summer that I've ever planted onions.  I had purchased a bag of little onion sets from a greenhouse, not really paying any attention to them except that they were yellow and looked like they were in decent condition.  And I paid even less attention to these poor onions once they were placed in the ground.  Miraculously, I actually had a fairly decent onion harvest this year.  Others in our area had trouble with their onions due to the amount of rain we had, but I guess that's one benefit of having a garden bed that is essentially sitting above a bed of gravel - plenty of drainage!  So I had onions to add to my spaghetti sauce and plenty to store for use this winter.  I have about a dozen left and they're just starting to show some signs of aging.  So I'd like to plant some more next year, learn how to care for onions, and learn how to store them more effectively.

 When I placed my order at Johnny's Selected Seeds, I included a well researched order for "Candy" onion sets, or so I thought.  Imagine my surprise today to find my order included a packet of onion seeds, not sets.  I guess I should have noticed that when I placed my order.
So now my question is, what does one do with onion seeds?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Minnesota spring

Oops - here was a draft of a post from Spring 2010 that didn't make it out of draft stage, for some reason.  I thought it would be fun to post it now - just thinking of things to come (wishfully thinking, I might add)

Draft from March 24, 2010:

Of course, spring in Minnesota means crazy temps. Last week we had 60 degrees, and today it's barely above freezing. The daffodils have about an inch of stem peeking up out of the ground. Rhubarb is actually making an appearance, as are some of my asiatic lilies. I'm just hoping it really hits 70 degrees next week as is currently forecast. Wouldn't that make a nice spring break.

There is still a lot of raking to do in the lawn. As I was out there today (freezing, I might add!), I was thinking about how to expand the shade garden by the road. I read a great article about martagon lilies in Northern Gardener this month. Too bad they're hard to find and take even longer to come to bloom. But in ten years I'll have wished I had taken the time to plant some now. It seems from my little research that they're fall planting bulbs. I would love to connect with some Minnesota gardeners who have had success with these flowers.

The good news is that I actually DID plant six martagon bulbs this past fall.  Now I know why I don't see them in gardens, they were expensive!  I had a strange, guilty feeling spending $30 on a flower bulb.  But why not?  It's a small indulgence... other people have their expensive vices... I don't smoke, gamble, travel, shop, or even drink all that often (which I type as I'm enjoying a nice bottle, I mean glass, of wine).  So what's $30 to add a touch of beauty to our yard?  Well, $30 times six, and you get the picture.  So this small indulgence was a little more than small, but I'm not at all regretting the purchase.  Unless, of course, the bulbs never produce.  That's the thing about martagons - I understand that they take years to flower.  But we could all use a lesson in delayed gratification in our culture of instant pleasure.  I just had to spend $180 to learn the lesson.  Isn't it ironic?

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Since I'm not spending time gardening, I'm spending time updating my blog with pictures from the 2010 gardening season and discovered that I didn't include our squash harvest in any previous post.  We planted seeds that were a cross between buttercup and golden nugget.  The seeds had been saved from plants that were harvested three years ago by Rita's husband, Joe, the last year that he gardened.  I wasn't sure what would come of these seeds that looked like they had seen better days.  Lo and behold, they took off, in a BIG way.  I have about 15 pints of squash in my freezer still to prove it, which doesn't take into account the ten pints that I've already used to either eat or to bake pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, or pumpkin bars.  I was surprised at how versatile squash is for baking, and surprised at how I enjoyed it as a side dish as well.  So this year, we saved more seeds, and Joe's squash lives on.

2011 Seed Order

With the help of Dave's Garden's Garden Watchdog, I discovered Johnny's Selected Seeds, Dave's Garden's highest ranked vegetable seed company.  I like that this company has organic selections of the seeds I needed, from plants that were not treated with fertilizers or pesticides.  And they had a wider variety of vegetables than I have found on other sites, including more varieties listed on the University of Minnesota Extension site for suggested vegetable varieties for our northern climate.

So here's what was in my cart:

Jade Green Beans (a very hearty producer for me last year)
Sugar Ann Snap Peas
Red Ace Beets
Northern Pickling Cucumbers
Marketmore Slicing Cucumbers
Candy onions (mild sweet storage onions)

Johnny's seed website also had a handy seed starting calculator which enables you to type in your spring frost free date to calculate a timeline for starting seeds indoors, if you are so inclined.  I truthfully haven't had much luck with starting seeds - if it's something that can't be directly sown, then I'll find it in the greenhouse.  Though I wonder, for those who do start seeds indoors (tomatoes, broccoli, and peppers are the plants I usually purchase), am I missing out?  Should I be thinking of purchasing grow lights and all of the seed starting supplies necessary?  Would I get great satisfaction from it?  Would I save money in the long run?  My opinion could be swayed with the right answers to these questions.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Gardening Resolutions for 2011

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions - if something is important enough to make a "resolution" about, then it's something I should be doing all the time, not just in the new year.  But gardening is different.  One year very naturally comes to an end, and one has time to prepare for a new gardening year to begin, at least in Minnesota.  So here are my gardening resolutions for 2011:
  1. I will plant fewer "salad greens" that only end up feeding the slugs. 
  2. I will can, freeze, or otherwise preserve everything we can't eat fresh.  Even that last harvest of green beans which just kept on producing in 2010.
  3. I will begin to vermicompost before the year's end.
  4. I will buy and use a decent composting bin to replace what my husband believes is my "compost eyesore" 
  5. I will always amend soil before planting in a new location (see #3 & 4).
  6. I will not overcrowd my perennial gardens!
  7. I will make pesto instead of allowing all of those lovely herb leaves to be destroyed with the first frost.
  8. I will weed more often! (one can always hope)
Some of these are easy things that I could check off of a to-do list, and some will have to wait until the end of the gardening season to be evaluated.  I imagine I'll add a few things here and there, but it's a good start.  Happy New Year!