Monthly Archives: July 2008

Scott finally chimes in – A Pesto Manifesto

One of the great things to enjoy summer all year is to make and freeze pesto. Pesto is fairly simple to make but there are a couple tips I’ve learned over the years that I’d like to share.

The first tip is that you can add other herbs or greens. Pesto doesn’t necessarily have to be made from only basil. You can add with basil or replace it completely. Parsley, cilantro, spinach, kale, amaranth leaves all make great additions or replacements for the basil. They have great flavor and can bulk up your recipe if you are short on basil. My favorite is half spinach and half basil basically because I can add more sauce without getting overwhelmed by the strong basil flavor.

The second tip is to blanch the basil and or greens before you make the pesto. This makes a huge difference in the color. It stays vibrant green instead of dulling or browning. Blanching is easy. Have a bowl of ice water or cold water ready. Get some water boiling in a pot. Toss the basil or other greens in the boiling water for 30 seconds making sure you give it a stir or two. Pull the greens out with tongs or a spoon and quickly get them in the cold water to stop them cooking. They are now blanched and ready to use.

The third tip is to freeze the basil in ice cube trays. Then when frozen, pop them out into a freezer bag for later use. This is so handy because the cubes are easy to use for portioning – about 1 per person depending on what you’re making. Just take a few out thaw them in the microwave or toss directly in a hot pot and toss with noodles.

Here is a good basic basil recipe but remember the variations are only limited by your imagination…

Makes about 1 full ice cube tray
Blanch 2 loose cups of spinach and 2 loose cups of basil
In a blender place
– the blanched spinach and basil with
– a couple table spoons of the blanching or cooling water
– two peeled garlic cloves (more or less depending on your taste for garlic)
– a hand full of nuts (pine nuts are classic but I like walnuts)
– a quarter to half a cup of good extra virgin olive oil
– a quarter cup of grated parmesan cheese
– salt to taste (too little is better than too much because you can always add it when you use the pesto later)

Blend it up to to a loose paste. The amount of olive oil varies due to the moisture of the other ingredients. I add it until everything in the blender starts to churn.

Thai Basil


Filed under Recipes

Our Little Praying Pet + Free Download

Praying Mantis
The other day while walking through the yard with my camera I glanced down at my shoulder and saw this little guy sitting on it. There he was sitting here, just along for a free ride, as I strolled along. Of course my little one wanted desperately to hold him. This hasn’t been the first time we’ve had a hitch hiking praying mantis. They are friendly little creatures and love to hop on for a free ride when they see that you’re walking through the garden. And they’re bad ass too. Read this description I got from Wikipedia:

Mantises are notable for their hunting abilities. They are exclusively predatory, and their diet usually consists of living insects, including flies and aphids; larger species have been known to prey on small lizards, frogs, birds, snakes, and even rodents. Most mantises are ambush predators, waiting for prey to stray too near. The mantis then lashes out at remarkable speed. Some ground and bark species, however, pursue their prey rather quickly. Prey are caught and held securely with grasping, spiked forelegs (“raptorial legs”); the first thoracic segment, the prothorax, is commonly elongated and flexibly articulated, allowing for greater range of movement of the front limbs while the remainder of the body remains more or less immobile. The articulation of the head is also remarkably flexible, permitting nearly 300 degrees of movement in some species, allowing for a great range of vision (their compound eyes have a large binocular field of vision) without having to move the remainder of the body.

Ellen asked me the other day what we did for pest control so Scott and I had a talk about it this morning over breakfast. And really, we take a preventative approach to pests. When we first moved in 6 growing seasons ago, we did have a pest problem, and a lack of water retention problem, and a whole lot of other problems. Our plants were small and bug eaten, but as we’ve learned more and more about organic gardening we’ve learned that the key to pest prevention is to nurture healthy plants. Give them highly nutritious soil, water them correctly and provide habitats for beneficial insects.

Now while we do have our fair share of white flies, aphids, grasshoppers and other pests out in the yard, after six years of returning the soil back to health, we have them outnumbered with ladybugs, praying mantis’, birds, chickens, soldier beetles and all sorts of good little guys. And really at this point we don’t do much to control the bad bugs. We collect snails when we see them and pick off a worm or two, but at this point we let nature take it’s course and live with the little bug bites we do get. Of course, that’s not to say that we haven’t lost a plant or two, but really that was my own lazy fault for not jumping onto of the situation earlier.

If you’d like to read up more about different pests and what you can do to organically treat them you can download this free pdf. It’s an exerpt from the ebook I have over in my sidebar: How to Start an Organic Garden. You can download the pdf here, it’s full of photos and treatment ideas and its yours for the taking.


Filed under Bad Bugs, Good Bugs, what we've learned


cooling down the house...
You know when the first morning glint of sun shines down this hard that it’s going to be a hot day. Actually a hot, hot week. Over 100 degrees. We’re going to do our best to keep cool, keep the garden watered, and maybe we’ll do a little reading up so we can wrote a bit about organic pest control, pollinating watermelons and maybe we’ll even talk a little mulch when the weather cools down.
Stay cool friends.


Filed under In the Kitchen, Musings

One of the fringe benefits

Searching for nectarines
One of the fringe benefits of having a garden is that our boys all of a sudden start eating endless amounts of fruits and vegetables. As I’ve mentioned before, I spend a good part of late autumn through winter worrying about how my sons don’t eat an ounce of vegetables, but at this time of year, foraging for them becomes their favorite pass time.
Berry Picking
They beg me to pull carrots so they can munch on them (tops in tack of course, what’s up doc?), cucumbers cut straight from the vine suddenly becomes a desireable snack and a fresh picked eggplant looks good enough for a big bite (that was almost immediately spit out by the way). Its a welcome change and I let them have at it all they want because I know soon enough, once this garden is dried up and winter takes hold, it’s going to be a good long time before they ever let anything grean or orange pass their lips again.
Reaching for Plums

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Filed under Musings

The Right Side

Red White and Blue
Hi Friends, how was your fourth? Ours was festive and fun and spent with dear friends. We spent time down at our hometown parade and came back and had a wonderful non traditional all veggie meal followed by a completely all american favorite dessert of smores. We wrapped it up by watching our town’s fireworks through our tree filtered view in our bedroom. It was a great day.

And it kept me busy, too busy to wrap up the rest of the garden tour, so let’s get that done, shall we? The section we have left is the right side and here’s where it was back in April.
We have a lot of onions in this section. Some are flowering with their long twisty, turny stems.
And others are pulled and left to dry out in the sun.
Basil and Peppers
This bed contains peppers, three types of basil and two eggplants. We’ve been trying our hand at eggplant parmesean and sneaking in pesto into all sorts of dinners. The peppers are far from ripe yet, but they are growing indeed.
Purple Basil
We’ve also got watermelons growing too! Our first successful year at it. Apparently they need a pollenator, so we planted two varieties together, Ali Baba and Sugar Baby, and it seems to have worked. They are growing like crazy:

Thanks for taking a walk with me through the yard!


Filed under State of the Garden

My favorite section

Center Plot
The center section, at this slice in time, is my favorite part of the garden. (here’s where it was in April) It’s lush and over flowing and producing like crazy. Our breakfast, lunch and dinner plates are full of zucchini, cucumbers, herbs, kale, lettuce and now plums from this section. And very soon tomatoes, beans, melons and peppers.
beans and cukes
This new raised bed is bursting at the seams with cucumbers, both pickling and japanese, and bush beans. Amazing, this is how little they all were exactly a month ago. The flowers from the bush beans are gorgeous:
Moving back a bit, if you use your hands to part through all of the vines:
hiding in the vines
You’ll find a few cantelopes growing along with some crenshaw melons:
And onto the next bed are the tomatoes, big growth since last month. Yes, the irony is not lost on us that the shortest tomato plant we have is placed in the 10 foot cage.
And lastly, we have those three new raised beds that have given us all the spring spinach and lettuce they could and are now blessing us with kale, cilantro, parsely and a volunteer tomato and melon….who knows what they’ll be.
herbs and kale
The Russian Red kale seems to be the healthiest we’ve every grown it. It’s just beautiful.

Have you ever roasted kale? It’s one of our favorite ways to eat it. Cut the leaves up roughly, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until the edges are crispy. Drip a little aged balsamic vinegar on them and it becomes an incredible side dish. So easy too!


Filed under Recipes, State of the Garden