Friday, June 25, 2010


A couple of quick updates my garden following friends, as well as Chapter Two of the Great Squash Casserole Showdown!  Here is the bounty from the week so far (all picked since last Saturday 06-19-2010.)

Crazy amounts of cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini.  Good amount of green beans too (and they keep coming.)  I have enjoyed the squash for my Great Squash Casserole Showdown but I am afraid they are quickly going to come to an end as it appears my yellow squash have something called Squash Vine Borer.  All of a sudden my plants are dying, vines are drying up and it appears at the base of each plant there is an area of infection/holes in the plant.  Once it gets to this stage there is no way to stop it.  If they stop producing right away I may purchase some more, or we may be sick of it already-ha ha!
 Finally today I leave you with Squash Casserole recipe #2-courtesy of Three Dollar Cafe.  The full recipe can be found here.  Slight adjustments include using paste form chicken base instead of liquid, and I split the recipe into two pans so I could share the casserole (after we ate casserole #1 for 3 days.)
I chopped the veggies-
Added the chopped onion to the melted butter in one pan...
  And the water and squashes to another pan...
Mix beaten egg, chicken base and other ingredients in a large bowl...
I allowed my onion/butter mixture to cool slightly before adding it to the mix as to not end up with scrambled eggs.  Add squashes to bowl and mix well, dump into pan or pans (note by this time I knew I had quite a few dishes and being the non-"green" person I am, I used throw-away pans.)  Top pans with slices of American cheese...
After baking your casserole will look something like this-ok I lied, this is only a small corner of the casserole since I forgot to photograph it before we ate almost our entire portion.  I did end up popping on the broiler for a couple minutes near the end of cooking time to brown the cheese slightly.
We rate this one an EASY 4 out of 4 squash blossoms and I wish I hadn't given the other half away!  Happy Squash Eating!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Too Hot for Creativity-Garden Update

With temperatures for the last 8-10 days above 90 degrees and no end in site I struggled for a creative title for today's garden update.  Just stepping out to take a few photos just now I find myself drowning in the sweat that is a hot, humid, June Atlanta day.  I suppose I should remind myself of these days when we have under 32 for 10 days in a row like we did last winter.
And now back to your regularly scheduled garden update:
As you can see the green beans have completely taken over the growing poles and lines I built for them.  In fact I am slightly concerned that within another week or so they will pull down the whole structure.  I am hoping not and glad I used thick electrical type wire for the horizontals.  In hindsight (which is often the case with anything garden related) I should have thinned out the green beans a little more.  When it says "thin to one plant per 6" for future reference I will.  In the areas where the plants are super thick I am actually getting less bean production due to the plants choking each other out for space.   This photo also shows the okra which is about knee tall for the most part and I found my first okra flower this morning:
Okra frying will commence in just a short time (this is not on the diet plan, but there really is no better way to fix okra in the first place right?)  Oh back to the first photo you will notice that this morning my sprinkler set-up failed and fell down.  Luckily I think it only smashed one plant, didn't break the actual sprinkler, and I managed to catch it within a few minutes of when it fell.  I will have to bang it into the ground a little harder next time.
From this angle you have another view of the green beans, okra and the zucchini plants (which are getting quite big.)  Once again when things like squash, cucumbers and zucchini plants say on the seed packet to "thin to 3 per hill", I think probably in the future I should actually do this.  Again thinking about how hard it is to pull living plants out of the ground but they are already all over each other and it is only mid-June.  Next up the peppers:
Also mostly looking good and healthy.  A couple of them are fairly small but 80% of them look good and have peppers on the plant.  Another tip for next year (again one of those darn hindsight things) I need to mark which peppers I am planting where.  I don't leave the little plastic markers in the ground (they tend to get lost) and didn't write down where I stuck which plants.  Now I have 16 peppers in 8 varieties and I'm not sure which is which.  The ones like jalapenos are easy to identify (like the above plant.)  But I have 3 colors of bell peppers (all of which start as green.)  Since I don't know which is which I don't know which ones to pick as "green" and which ones to leave for "yellow and red" which take a good bit of time to change to their proper color.
Finally my tomatoes-sigh.  These yellow cherry tomatoes are looking decent, but the plants of all the tomatoes are thin and stalky and still seem to be suffering from a multitude of problems.  The plants still are infected with a fungus of some kind that is causing leaf damage and also I am starting to suspect that the cypress mulch possibly stunted the growth of the plants.  After adding some additional fertilizer a couple weeks ago they have grown taller and a bit healthier and more able to ward off the fungus.  I am very pleased in general with the mulch/newspaper for weed control as well as moisture retention as a whole but next year I think I need to fertilize sooner in the growing season to compensate for possible nitrogen robbing by the mulch.  My larger plants have a decent number of small tomatoes but they are a bit smaller than I would like.
One last note, it seems the japanese beetles are enjoying munching on my green beans plants.
Not so much that I am overly concerned, but something to keep an eye on.  Oh and I'm taking pictures each time I pick from the garden so at the end of the growing season I can check out my total yield.  I thought too late about weighing the items (as some items have been consumed already!)
Happy Gardening!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Iron Chef Georgia-Battle Squash

I still remember the first time I ever watched the show Iron Chef...sitting on Beth and Steve's couch in Montclair, NJ-amazed.  It was almost the craziest show I had seen at the time.  (I'm not talking about the American version either, but the full fledged Japanese import version.)  If you are unfamiliar with the show two chefs battle to create 5 or 6 dishes in an hour with a specially picked out ingredient.  In the Japan version the "secret" ingredients vary from things like eel, star fruit, you know, the kind of stuff you would buy at the Buford Highway Farmer's Market.  It's a real hoot to watch and I sort of miss the old over the top version of the show (which has been replaced on foodtv by Iron Chef America.)

I decided to have my own sort of "Iron Chef" this summer with some of the garden produce (which I am realizing fairly quickly that I will have plenty of.)

I have gathered about 4 squash casserole recipes and hope to try them in the next couple of months (until we get tired of them-which may come sooner than later.)  First up was Uncle Bubba's Cheesy Squash Casserole-courtesy of Paula Dean's brother.  Not really on my current diet plan, but paired with grilled chicken and a salad not a bad meal.  The recipe is located here and the only adaptations I made were to add around a cup of sliced mushrooms (that I needed to use up) and to add about 1/4 cup of mayo based on some reviews in the comment section on the website (because cheesy, buttery wasn't enough-adding mayo just makes it better!)
I started with the veggie ingredients:
I sauteed them according to the recipe and measured out the rest of the items:
Now in my haste to cook, measure and remember to take pictures for the blog I forgot to drain the veggies before adding them to the cheese/sour cream mixture.  Now, the first time we ate it I would say it did have a bit more liquid than I normally would have liked for a casserole, but upon re-heating (it makes a LOT for two people) it really firmed up.  So my advice would be maybe-partially drain?  Here is the finished product:
I will rate it three out of four squash blossoms (which will be the judging system for future squash dishes.)  It was tasty but lacked that extra "pow" it needed to give it 4 blossoms.  By the third time we ate it, it lost something.  Possibly once you have had squash casserole 3 times in 3 days it always loses something? 

Week one of garden harvesting yielded 16 ea. yellow crookneck squash.  I can see 6 out there that need to be picked now.  I think I'll wait a week before trying casserole #2.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fresh Produce in T-minus How Many Days?

I am continually amazed in the garden.  What on May 7th, not even a full month ago looked like this...
Now looks like this...
Wow!  Really coming along.  I think I will be able to harvest some veggies in a week or so.  I have some baby yellow squash...
and some baby small cucumbers (these are going to be used for pickles-once I learn how to make them!)
Of course not everything is doing amazingly well.   I'm having some tomato problems this year.  A couple weeks back they started developing these black spots and the lower leaves started turning yellow.
It appears to be some kind of fungus/blight.  I talked to the extension service as well as another gardening website guru and they mentioned that due to all of the flooding last fall here in the metro area that quite a few people are having this problem.  They recommended I remove all of the infected leaves and put them in a garbage bag in the trash (not throw them into the woods) and then spray the rest of the plant with Daconil (a fungicide.)  Sorry to all you organic folks but I did what they recommended rather than re-plant 10 tomatoes.  It seems to have helped some, but in all honesty I think that my tomato crop may be small and short this year.  The plants are very stalky, not full like normal. 
Ironically the poor dying tomatoes offer my first glimpse of fresh veggies...
These are yellow cherry tomatoes and I think I shall put them on my salad tonight!  (As an aside-I actually HATE tomatoes.  Really.  They just freak me out.  BUT-I'm trying very hard to learn to like them.  I planted quite a few varieties in the hopes that I would find one I prefer.)
Finally to close this week's gardening update I thought I would share my new watering method.  I have tried many different sprinklers and have tried putting it on a ladder (which is a real pain) when the green beans/okra get too tall.  Yesterday we installed these poles into the ground, two of them since I have such horrible water pressure.  I added a "stake" type sprinkler to the top and now all I need to do to water is turn it on and then relocate the sprinkler part one time to get full coverage.
The posts are 4' and 6' (mostly because I had to buy a 10' section of pipe.)  This should save me from getting so muddy on work mornings.

By next week I might have pictures of my first "harvest"!  I leave you with the following completely unrelated photo of last weekend's sushi night-it was just too pretty not to post!