Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Zucchini Smoothie

I drank a zucchini and it was delicious.

It stands to reason; Raw zucchini has practically no flavor of its own, so why wouldn't it work in fruit smoothies?

I've long been a fan of putting large portions of baby spinach or deep green kale in my smoothies, and have won over many skeptics.

The zucchini actually added a thick and creamy element that I enjoyed.

Here is my basic template for smoothies:
  • About 2-3 cups fresh fruit (or partially thawed frozen) cut into chunks if needed (see list below)
  • About 1-3 cups zucchini, remove core and seeds, cut in chunks, leave peel on if tender -- OR About 1-3 cups baby spinach or other favorite raw greens that have a mild flavor
Puree this in the blender, then add:
  • About 1-3 cups frozen fruit (I partially thaw it if I'm using mostly frozen fruit)
I often add:
  • A scoop of plain yogurt, preferably Greek (about 1/3 cup)
  • TB wheat germ
  • One medium zucchini + fruit
    = 6 1/2 cups
  • TB ground flax seed 
If the blender is struggling because it is too thick, I add:
  • fruit juice or water
Do a taste test. Not sweet enough? I add a little orange juice concentrate or fruit preserves. Too bland? Try just a little frozen lemonade or lime juice or something else with a citric acid kick!

In this batch I used:
  • One medium zucchini (about 1 pound) some peel removed, core and seeds removed
  • One peach, peeled and pit removed
  • One apricot with skin, pit removed
  • Fresh blueberries 1-2 cups
  • One frozen banana (no peel of course!)
  • 12 whole frozen strawberries
  • 1 TB apricot preserves

Friday, July 17, 2015

Zucchini Soup with Coconut Milk, Curry and Lemon Grass

I over-planted the zucchini again. Want some? This beautiful soup can use up one large zucchini. Joy joy.
And you can make this recipe vegetarian/vegan

Zucchini Soup with Coconut Milk, Curry and Lemon Grass
For Printable Version Click Here

  • 1 medium onion (I used a sweet yellow onion) chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
  • Olive oil or coconut oil -- just enough to saute the onion & garlic, about 1 TB
  • 1 large (2 pounds at least, more is fine) zucchini chopped in 1" pieces -- I peeled off some of the skin, but it all cooked down. I also removed the pithy core & seeds, but this zucchini was not overripe so very little was removed.
  • 1 can chicken broth or vegetable broth 
  • 1 can coconut milk (I used regular, but you may use light)
  • 1 TB mild yellow curry
  • 1TB fresh lemongrass or 1 Kaffir Lime Leaf, or try some Lemon Thyme? *see notes
  • Optional: Mild Cheese: Shredded Mozzarella or Feta or mild Goat Cheese
  • Optional: Toasted Pumpkin Seeds *see notes
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in a little oil over medium heat until tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add zucchini, lemon grass and about half the broth. Simmer until tender, at least 10-15 minutes. (I covered the pot)
  3. When the zucchini is tender, remove the lemon grass if you prefer (see notes), then blend with an immersion blender or transfer to a standing blender and blend until smooth.
  4. Return to pot (if using standing blender) and add remaining broth, coconut milk, curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. Stir while heating to serving temperature.
  5. I served this with a little shredded mozzarella cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds, along with some crusty sourdough bread. 
NOTES: The original recipe did not call for the lemongrass, but I have a bounty growing in my herb garden, so -- why not? I picked several thick stems with the blades, which are sharp as razors. I chopped it very fine and tossed it in. The fragrance was amazing and it did so much for this soup! The texture after blending was a little fibrous though, and I ended up running my husband's serving through a sieve so he would not complain. I did not mind it. Solution: leave whole and remove before blending. I think a Kaffir Lime leaf or  a little Lemon Thyme would be nice alternatives. Maybe fresh Tarragon?
Here's an excellent tutorial on using lemongrass.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds: I had some unsalted pumpkin seeds, and just laid them on a baking sheet, sprinkled with seasoning salt and put them under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes until a few were just turning brown. This was so good with this soup!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Year of the Beetle

Eggplant Leaf destroyed by flea beetles
I had beautiful plans for the best vegetable garden ever this year.

And row after row, nothing came up -- or something would sprout, but be gone in a day. I blamed the weather or old seeds.
I replanted.
Flea Beetle on Nasturtium

Then I noticed the eggplants.

And not just the eggplants. The tomatoes were drooping, the peppers were stunted, and the kale, arugula, beets, swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, spinach and bok choy were non-existent in spite of several plantings.

The internet diagnosed Flea Beetles. I had never heard of them. This has never been a problem! But stepping back into my garden, now I saw them everywhere, on nearly everything.

What to do? I hurried to the farm store and spent $30 on beneficial nematodes to destroy the larvae feasting on the plant roots.
I bought a large bag of diatomaceous earth to annoy a large variety of insect pests, including the ants who had developed a regular track through the garden, and I suspect were "farming" some of these pests for their benefit.
And I bought a spray bottle of Neem oil, figuring this would send them packing.
I added some fly paper to trap some critters.

It's been four weeks. The latest re-planting efforts have been moderately successful.

At this point I have decided to rejoice that the lettuce is thriving, the peas and beans don't seem to mind being chomped a little, and absolutely NOTHING bothered the zucchini this year.

Next year, I will re-apply the beneficial nematodes before planting, bleach my row covers and spread the diatomaceous earth on everything after planting.
If anyone has more ideas for me, I would LOVE to hear them!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Poor Man's Orchid

I rely on this generously self sewing annual as though it is a perennial. It fills in deep shady spots in my garden, and often pops up in sunny places as well.

Aunt Jeannie shared the seeds with my Mom decades ago. She called it "Poor Man's Orchid",

It is also known as Balfour's Touch Me Not, Balfour's Impatien, or Impatiens Balfourii, and can be purchased in seed catalogs.

You may not be able to find this for sale in nurseries because in my experience this plant can be fussy about being transplanted. From seed however, it grows beautifully and multiplies!

I have discovered that it will show up in pots I have left nearby, so I have taken to leaving a few leftover nursery pots near my plantings as a way to easily create new starts for moving around the garden and sharing with friends.

Originating around the Kashmir region of the Himalayas, it grows naturally in cool moist climates.

Here are a few reasons I love this delightful annual:
  • Long lasting blooming season (beginning late spring and going into fall)
  • Charming orchid like blossoms
  • Attractive foliage
  • Performs well in deep shade
  • Self sowing (generously)
  • Attracts butterflies and humming birds
  • Easy to grow
  • Works well combined with other plants in the border.
  • Entertaining exploding seed pods
That last "benefit" on the list is one of the novelties of this plant. When the seed pods are fully mature, they burst open when touched gently, much to the delight of guests, and especially my kids when they were little. As long as you don't get a seed in your eye, this is great fun.
New plants in spring

  • Prolific seed production, but young plants are easily pulled out.
  • Needs regular watering, but do not over water.
  • May need staking when grown as a massed planting, as shown here. Grown as a single plant, they will develop a sturdy shape, but in a wall of plants they will tend to become tall and spindly. 
  • Because it is an annual, plants will die after first frost and need removal. Obviously this means there is no attraction for the winter garden.
Just more photos...

A seed pod almost ready to burst
As a backdrop for Astilbe