vegetable garden

I’m ready for cantaloupe — is it ready for me?

With a high of 99 degrees yesterday, summer’s sting is lingering.  But that’s good news in my vegetable garden, where I am eagerly awaiting my first cantaloupe.  Its smooth, green, immature surface has been steadily changing, forming a lacy, beige skin that tells me it’s almost time to eat.

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This one still has a long way to go.

As it begins to evolve, you’ll know it’s getting closer.

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If you have a sunny spot and some room for vines to meander, you can grow cantaloupe.  They like well-drained soil; my veggies grow in raised beds, so that makes it easier.

Their growing season is about 12 weeks.  In Central Texas, we can plant them in late March-April and harvest them from mid summer to fall.  Cantaloupes are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, and are low in calories.

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There are several ways to tell if your cantaloupe is ready.  First, make sure it’s covered with that raised, lacy netting-like skin.  Then, it should come off of the vine easily with a gentle twist.  If you have to work at it, you’ve jumped the gun!  And finally, sniff the end where you removed it from the vine — it should yield that sweet, heavenly, cantaloupe scent.  The one above still isn’t ready, the skin between the lacy part needs to turn a beige-ish color, too.  Don’t worry, if you do get too excited an pick one too soon, you can let it ripen a few more days in the refrigerator before you dig into it.

I’m hoping for a big bowl of cantaloupe with my breakfast this weekend!

Cottage garden entwined with beautiful edibles highlight of Houston trip

We saw lots of interesting, beautiful and creative gardens when my friend, Pam, of Digging, and I visited Houston for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Day Tour two weeks ago.

My very favorite — a cacophony of color, texture and layers so entwined that taking it all in was a project in and of itself.  But a delightful one, not to be missed.

It wasn’t on the tour; it was recommended by Pam’s sister.  We had high expectations for the house at 605 Peddie Street, and we weren’t disappointed.  The owner, landscape consultant, Terry Gordon Smith, was hand watering the garden with a hose when he found us oohing and ahhing over  his creation.  He was very welcoming and proud of his garden and we enjoyed learning about the garden’s evolution and the weather and conditions in his Houston garden.

No lawn in sight, this garden is filled with evergreens, perennials, annuals, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

The bottle brush trees were pruned very high, making a dramatic statement towering over all the other plants.

Up close and personal – I almost can’t count how many plants are encapsulated in this close-up photo.

With so many plants filling the garden, the view from every angle is unique.

The delphiniums were gorgeous.  I love blue in the garden and there just aren’t that many good choices for us to incorporate it into our gardens.  I’ve had delphiniums, but the deer thought they were tasty!

Even the edibles make beautiful examples of perfect color combinations.

Tight shots like this make the veggies look like abstract art.

 Pam’s working on some of those close ups, too.

 Love the color combo of the delphiniums against the brightly colored house.
This was a delightful garden and, like the garden at 1514 Banks that I posted about, helped to give us a broader perspective of Houston gardens than just those one the tour.  Our weekend was totally garden-licious.  More to come soon about another cool destination nursery and restaurant combo.

Delicious garden kale — it’s what’s for dinner

While I was out in the garden this morning figuring out what to do about the impending freeze and miserable weather, I decided to bring in some things from the veggie garden for dinner tonight.

I covered a few things – the lettuce and the chard that I just planted. 

I brought in some parsley and sage and lettuce and the whole head of red Russian kale.  (Kind of liked thinking of the punitive theme for the Russian in my garden.)

Isn’t it just gorgeous?  I admit, I plant this one year after year because of its colors.  I looks beautiful in the garden.  The red colors disappear when you cook it, though.

I sauteed a little bit of onion with a smidge of bacon drippings and then just steamed the still-wet leaves after cleaning.  They cooked for about an hour on low heat with the lid closed.  I seasoned them with truffle sea salt, pepper, a little poultry seasoning and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar upon serving.  Delish!

Oh – and notice my pretty new ceramic olive oil bottle and spoon rest – birthday gifts from my Mom and Dad.  It was all color coordinated on the stove tonight!

What are you eating out of your veggie garden right now?  Any kale on the menu?

Shopping for veggies for the spring garden…

A quick trip to The Natural Gardener today yielded a treasure trove of goodies for the spring garden.

I went in search of three little things:  potatoes, sulfur and seed starter mix.

But I came home with so much more, including:

  • a few magazines,
  • a decorative hanging bell with a cord of glistening glass beads,
  • a fairy garden turtle on a leaf for my daughter, who recently asked if she could have a turtle,
  • seeds,
  • strawberries,
  • beets,
  • lettuce,
  • cauliflower,
  • spinach,
  • chard,
  • daikon radishes,
  • all blue and red pontiac potatoes,
  • sulfur,
  • and my friend Amy Stewart’s book, Wicked Plants.

I got it all into the car and then realized I had forgotten the seed starter mix.  It’s funny how a trip to the nursery can turn your world upside down and make you forget things.  I ran back in and grabbed a bag.

Now it’s time to get busy planting!

Winter vegetable harvest — grow delicious kale

Vegetable gardening feeds my desire to buy and grow unusual plants. I love watching interesting varieties of common plants put on a show in my garden. 

This year I grew kale for the first time — Red Russian, which boasts beautiful red leaf stalks and tender twisting intricate green leaves, and Red Ursa — which is red all over and has tight, tiny curls like a perm left in too long!

If you’ve been wanting to add edibles to your perennial landscape beds – these varieties are the perfect addition.  If you don’t have to worry about deer or other critters getting them, that is.

They look so pretty in the garden.

And even better picked an in a bowl ready for washing!

I sauteed a leek from the garden with a little bit of bacon drippings, then added the washed and wet kale.  I put a little salt, pepper and chicken base in the pot with a little extra water and covered them and let them steam for a while — maybe 30 minutes. 
They were delicious.  I think we can get another meal or two out of the plants before I pull them to make room for the four tomatillos biding their time in the greenhouse until our danger of frost has passed.
What are you eating out of your garden now?

Cauliflower harvest makes delicious dinner…

The winter vegetable garden came bearing gifts yesterday.

I ventured out into the rain to harvest our first cauliflower.

It was big and beautiful in the garden — and it had been calling to me for several days.

With a nice roast, mashed potatoes and roasted beets waiting as accompaniment, I brought it in.

Of course, we took a few pictures of it first.

I cut it up and put it on a baking sheet with some olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Then I sprinkled a little shredded Parmesan cheese on it and topped that with some bits of garlic from the garlic press. After 30 minutes at 425 it was a nutty, cheesy, crunchy batch of yumminess.

Jeff checked online and learned that the beautiful leaves that I cut off of the cauliflower are also edible like greens. I cut and cleaned them and set them aside. Tomorrow I’ll steam them and toss them with some bacon, onion and sea salt … maybe a little balsamic vinegar, too.

There are three more heads of cauliflower growing in the garden, but they have a few more weeks to go so we have something to look forward to.