Fall Fell

lettuce seedsWell, dear friends, Fall has touched down in South Philly. Which is not to say we won’t be slammed with a few more 90 degree days; but generally, temps are hovering in the 70s during the day and low 60s at night. The biggest challenge, though, is the rapidly dwindling sun exposure. POD enjoys at least six to eight hours of sun throughout most of the summer but by September, it receives only a few hours of morning sun.

What does this mean for POD’s zone 7 garden? Major work on deck.

As you can see from yesterday’s post, there’s been some reorganization.  First, all containers have been crammed together to maximize sun exposure. Both the Gold Nugget and Isis Candy cherry tomatoes bit the dust, as did the spacemaster and lemon cucumbers (tune in for more info on Friday).  Filling their shoes are several more parsnip seeds, French radishes, lettuce, Swiss chard, and carrots.

Parsnips and Radishes of the Future
Parsnips and Radishes of the Future

The Brussels sprout seedlings have also made their way, full-time, onto the deck. Honestly, they’ve been looking a little peaked lately. Here’s hoping they pull through.

Steak Salad

Oh, the pleasures of climbing the sladder and returning with a bowl full of dinner.

Minus the cow.

steak salad

Serves 2
Got cucumbers? Check. Tomatoes? Check. Lettuce? Check. Swiss Chard? Check. Very par-boiled peas? Check. (Peas courtesy of the farmers’ market.) Fresh, crunchy bread? Check.

Steak and Croutons
1) 60z flat iron steak (a relatively thin cut that will grill quickly) at room temperature.
1b) slice bread into 1/2″ rounds, rub with olive oil and garlic.
2) Blot steak dry with paper towel.
3) Brush with a splodge of olive oil.
4) Rub in some coarse ground black pepper and salt, press it into the meat.
5) Heat your grill as hot as you can. Sear each side for 2-3 minutes, depending on your preferences. Your grill lines should be nice and black.
6) Grill bread until golden toasty — it won’t take long.
7) Remove from heat, rest for 3-4 minutes. Break the bread into bite-size pieces. Slice the steak thinly and arrange over your salad.

Chicago Greens

After traveling well over 2500 miles of the upper Midwest — by car, ferry, bicycle, and foot — POD has returned. While wandering our way through the windy city we discovered what might well be the best urban gardening store ever: Sprout Home.

Enjoying Chicago’s delayed growing season we sampled fresh peas, asparagus, and Swiss chard (along with roast chicken, lamb, lake trout, and short rib tortellini) at the new Nightwood Restaurant in the Pilsen neighborhood.  Excellent.  At Avec, the fennel and Brussel sprouts took the day and at the Publican the pork belly with fava was fabulous.

But oh good sweet dessert lord…the Baked Alaska with homemade strawberry ice cream, shortbread cookie, and wicked strawberry rhubarb sauce (served with a complimentary glass of Muscat — thanks, bartender guy) at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate wins, hands down.

Stay tuned for updates from the Little Blue Deck, but in meantime, enjoy this vision of lettuce and Swiss chard.

Chicago Lettuce
Chicago Lettuce
Fields of Green
Fields of Green

Hello, My Pretties

POD began with visions of gorgeous flowers, cascading from well-designed containers. And, for the first few years, visitors to the little blue deck were greeted by a riot of color.

Then, almost surreptitiously, a basil plant slipped in, then a jalapeno and Mr. Stripey…Now, the little blue deck sports almost entirely vegetables. There are enough flowers to encourage pollination, but great gobs of satisfaction — culinary, environmental and yes, aesthetic satisfaction — can be derived from growing vegetables in containers.

The red lettuce surrounding these spacemaster cucumbers and Minnesota Midget melons provide a nice splash of red against a small sea of soon-to-be towering green.
The red lettuce surrounding these spacemaster cucumbers and Minnesota Midget melons provide a nice splash of red against a small sea of soon-to-be towering green.
This lone glazed terra cotta pot stars tarragon, thyme and lavender. Contrasting greens, varied heights and textures combine to present a pretty striking container.
This lone glazed terra cotta pot stars tarragon, thyme and lavender. Contrasting greens, varied heights and textures combine to present a pretty striking container. (Sorry the picture isn't so hot!)

Container Gardening: Making the Most of It, Part II

lettuce and indian eggplant
lettuce and indian eggplant

This little guy is chock-full of goodness. Last year this pot quite successfully housed two prolific Thai eggplants. This year we’re giving three a whirl (one Thai from last year’s seed collection and two Indian Udmalbet). Sure, it may well be too crowded, but you never know until you try.

While the plants are still young, they’re sharing some space with a couple of very leafy lettuce plants.

Lettuce, by the way,  is POD’s moneymaker. It gets crammed into every available cranny and with diligent re-seeding and plenty of water it produces almost all season long into November.  It saves us at least $6-8 a week. (Next year a cost-benefit analysis is in the works for POD. )

Typically we just snip or tear off the outer leaves until the plant starts looking a little leggy (usually at least 4-6 harvests). When it starts tasting a little too bitter for your tastes, just yank it up and start over again. (Or, in this case, yank it out for tonight’s Cobb salad and give the eggplants a little more breathing room.)

Since eggplants take about 120 days to go from seed to vegetable, it’s gratifying to see something edible emerge from the pot within just  a few weeks.