All Thumbs

Tom ThumbHey, gardeners, it’s March! And nothing says spring like sunshine, cold-reddened fingers, and drippy noses. And while the long-range weather report isn’t filling this gardener with a ton of enthusiasm, it’s good enough, one hopes, for the newly purchased Tom Thumb pea seeds. Courtesy of Greensgrow and the Seed Savers Exchange.

Both the seed packet and the University of Tom Thumb 2Tennessee claim Mr. Thumb can withstand hard frosts and temperatures as low as 20°. While this feels like an exceptionally cold winter for we weenie Philadelphians, here’s betting that we won’t see temperatures that cruel  until next January.

And Plants On Deck is super-excited about this particular pea. It’s a tiny dwarf heirloom, first grown in the late 1800s in Philly, that purportedly produces s-tons of peas in cramped quarters. Sounds too good to be true. We’ll know in 50-55 days.


Bitty Broccoli

Top: Greensgrow
Below: PODgrown

Maybe it’s time to admit defeat.

Earlier this month we received our first winter CSA share from the good people at Greensgrow. It was gorgeous. And the ensuing lemon chicken with broccoli was delicious.

Speaking of broccoli, the broccoli was especially envy-making…given that POD’s broccoli is in a pretty pathetic state.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of fateful kale…

Waaay back in August, a shopping spree at that very same urban CSA mecca resulted in a deck full of cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Oh, my.

But what the CSA gods provideth, the nursery demons taketh away: just days later the starts proved themselves to be crawling in loopers. Squish, squish. Problem solved.

BUT then, a couple weeks after that, a particularly nasty-looking aphid took over. All new for 2012, people: Cabbage aphids! Which, apparently, tend to be more problematic in fall crops. Good to know. These nefarious boogers were regularly sprayed with heavy doses of a Dr. Bronner’s soapy water solution  but to no avail. Deck decimation.

(SIDE RANT: So, not only did this organic “magic all-one” soap fail to kill off the aphids, but the funky-smelling unscented variety stings toddler eyes, and when the screaming toddler flails the offending suds into a nearby adult’s eyes, it stings theirs, too. Like a lot. And it leave a nasty residue on one’s skin and a milky scum on brand-new jet black vehicles. Both the human and vehicular test subjects required two non-Bronner’s scrubbings to remove all traces of ickiness. Which clearly, POD has time for.)

Defeat admitted.

Greek Salad Pasta

Greek Salad PastaGlorious Gold Nuggets (and Black Cherries and Isis Candies)! Over two pounds of sweet, sweet cherry tomatoes have made it onto our plates so far this summer. That’s good, not great. But we’ll take what we can get.

The latest crop met its match with the contents of last week’s amazing CSA share from Greensgrow. Delicious spinach pasta from Superior Pasta, POD cucumbers, POD oregano, and Boltonfeta from Hidden Hills Dairy all combined to make a pretty awesome spoof on the traditional Greek salad.

POD’s Greek Salad Pasta:

1 lb fresh spinach pasta, linguine
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 tbs. chopped oregano
2 lemon cucumbers, sliced thinly
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
1/4-1/2 lb feta, crumbled
12-15 calamata olives, pitted and chopped
pepper, to taste
red wine vinegar, (optional) to taste

  1. In a large bowl, mix the cherry tomatoes and the chopped oregano.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add some salt. Dump in the fresh spinach pasta. Boil for 4-5 minutes.
  3. While the pasta bubbles, toss the shallots, olives, and feta with the tomatoes. Stir in some pepper and a splash of vinegar.
  4. Drain the pasta and pour the piping hot pasta over the cheese and tomato mixture. Stir thoroughly.
  5. Ladle into plates, top with cucumber slices, and season to taste.

Good Greensgrow Growers

So, POD hasn’t been entirely happy with the whole alternating weeks of fish emulsion/worm casting tea fertilizing routine. All sorts of secondary deficiencies have been cropping up in POD’s ever-suffering tomatoes. Like magnesium (helped by the addition of epsom salts) and calcium (maybe, or maybe not helped by egg shells) deficiencies, and who knows what else.

A desperate plea was recently lodged with a charmingly hairy farmer guy at Greensgrow. He was incredibly helpful. He suggested this stuff:

Garden tone fertilizerHere’s hoping it works.

Mr. Stripey!

Mr. Stripey Tomato
Show Your Stripes

He was FREE, okay?! Blame the good people at Greensgrow, with their rack of “Please take me home” tomatoes.  It would have been cruel not to, right?

Besides, Mr. Stripey was the very first heirloom tomato that got this whole container gardening bug going, many years ago. And he was sweet and delicious. (And the next year when a Mr. Stripey the Second was planted it did miserably, but whatev.) Based on a welcomed recommendation from Startin Yer Garten, he’s enjoying a huge pot. Wish this latecomer good luck and bid him welcome.

And don’t forget to water…and then water again several hours later. It’s hot out there, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Totally Cheating

broccoli salad
Mikey Likes It!

Generally, when you see a recipe on this blog, something came from a plant on deck.  Full disclosure: not this time.

We consider ourselves devoted omnivores, but there are a few vegetables that we both ban. Beets, for example, and winter squash. Lately, though, our horizons have been expanding and several previous disliked (by one of us) vegetables have entered into regular rotation.

Until last night, broccoli belonged in that banned category. Some of us have long-loved the cancer-fighting little green trees, others, not so much. As in, it’s never been prepared in the kitchen below the deck.

And then it appeared in our Greensgrow CSA share. Woo hoo! We simply had to do something with it.

And we did.

And it was liked by all.

Broccoli Salad (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Broccoli Slaw
1 head of broccoli
½ c. sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 c. dried cherries, chopped into raisin-sized pieces
2 spring onions, finely sliced

Buttermilk Dressing
¼ c. buttermilk
2 tbs. light mayo
1 tbs. cider vinegar
2 tbs. spring onion, finely sliced
salt and lots of black pepper

If you’re looking for the original recipe, seriously, got to Smitten Kitchen. If you’re looking for a recipe that made use of what happened to be in our kitchen (cherries from Traverse City, MI and spring onions from Philadelphia, PA), this was pretty freaking amazing.

Trim the broccoli into large chunks. Very thinly slice (as thin as you possibly can) the little heads, use as much of the stalk as you’re comfortable with. Mix in the sliced almonds, cherries, and onions.

In another bowl, mix the dressing together. Pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture. Taste for salt and pepper. Enjoy.