Spring turns to Summer and the garden changes

Last week was the summer solstice.  The sun is as high in the sky as it is going to be, and the race back towards winter has begun.  There are changes that are happening in the garden as well.  There is a transfer that happens, very subtly, transferring from the spring varieties to those of summer.  We also start to think about what will be going into the fall garden.

The transfer from spring to summer in the garden is… like the weather that changes during this time period.  Not delicate and small and drab, but much more vigorous and colorful.  Many of the herbs are setting overdrive while others are starting to flower.  Coriander has bolted and is about ready to be harvested, the lettuces have all bolted, collecting seeds instead of leaves has become their focus.  Tomatoes with their shades of red are ripening, carrots are being harvested, shallots and onions are getting ready for harvest, garlic is poking it’s head… errr… their shoots up.  The first generation of green beans is winding down.  And lastly, in my garden at least, the hops are reaching for the sky and getting ready to start budding.

The weather is warm and and evenings are very comfortable.  Pants and coats have given way to shorts and tee-shirts.

This fall will be a fun one, I think.  The hops will need to be harvested, more lettuce will be planted.   I may look into planting my beds with a leguminous cover crop to give the beds a bid of a rest and some much needed food.  There is still plenty of time before that decision must be made.  In the mean time, I think I will head out to the porch and pet the cat for a little while before I head off to yoga class.


Homemade salsa fresca

Today I am doing a request.  My sweetie asked me what was required to make salsa (she asked while at the grocery store).  Since I am going to be making some, I thought I would share with y’all my recipe for salsa fresca.

Now, I have never been one to follow a recipe, and I encourage you to take this and make it your own, add some of this or a pinch of that.  I have always had problems measuring to match a recipe.  I eyeball most of the time or just throw a dash in.  I guess after a while, you start to get a feel for what a teaspoon is and how much a tablespoon is.

First off, you need fresh veggies.  Of course, I start with tomatoes.  I like paste tomatoes, generally Romas, but any tomato will do.  I chop them into pieces roughly 1/4″ squares (the secret of chefs is to cut just about everything the same size).  Paste style tomatoes have more flesh then juice and or space inside, the reason they are better for this salsa.

Next, I will chop up a red onion.  I will cut it length wise and then in half (or quarter). Then, without cutting through the narrowest part, slice through down the middle, then about a quarter inch to each side of the previous cut, and so on until I reach the outside, each time rotating the blade along the radius of the onion so that each slice looks like the spokes of a wheel from the thick end.  I then cut crosswise from the thick side 1/4″ from the side and so on until I reach the narrow end.  You end up with 1/4″ chopped onion… if not… no worries, this is all going to go into the bowl and the flavors will mix.  I will next cut up some green onion, roughly chopped is fine, and throw it into the box.

After this I will mince up a couple of cloves of garlic, the jalapenos and serranos (you can de-seed if you prefer the salsa less spicy).  I use three jalapenos and two serranos with seeds from one of each.  Then I chop up cilantro and toss it in.  Finally I will throw in some salt (to taste). I think the salsa “marinates” better with a little more salt.  Finally I slice a lime or two… or three, depending on how much you are making and squeeze the juice in.

In the past I have used fresh thyme or some oregano.  You can use what you may have in your own herb garden.  If you like a little “southwest” flavor, you can throw in a half can of sweet corn, or chop up and mango and throw that in.

I have found that the salsa is best the day after you make it.  All of the flavors have a chance to blend and get extracted from all of the ingredient.


Garden update

I went out into the garden this afternoon after work to water and check on everything… lo and behold one of my Centennial hops has poked his head up through the soil and is aiming skyward!  I was so excited, I started hopping up and down… the cat looked at me like I was strange…

I really don’t expect a whole lot from them this year, as hops tend not to produce much in their first year, other then roots.  Once the roots are established, in the second year, then you are supposed to get a decent harvest.  I have a couple of perennials; blood orange, kumquat, apple, mandarin, grapefruit, and chardonnay grape… all of them seemed to want to rush and produce in their first year.  Maybe, just maybe, I can get some hops that will be usable to brew this next fall.  *crosses fingers*

Other then the hops, my green beans are all starting to set their primary leaves… all plants are about 4 inches tall.  The strawberries are coming along nicely.  The arugula has bolted, so now I am waiting for the seed pods to dry out.  The beets are rockin’, the carrots are doing so-so… most seem to be stunted… weird.  Cilantro/coriander is getting ready to bolt… I will definitely be saving some of the seed to through into some Belgian beers this year.  Lettuce is still in massive production mode.  Two of the sweet pepper plants that made it through the winter are starting to form flower buds.  I also have some onions and shallots all above ground rockin’.

Not too bad for two 4×4 raised beds and a couple of pots.  I do hope to get more herbs going, some for cooking and some for brewing, will see how that turns out.

Do you have anything growing in your back/front yards?  If so, whatcha got goin?

Spring gardening

This year I did not buy any new seeds, I have a healthy stock of seeds from previous years.  I didn’t see it as a wise move to waste what I already had.  So with the weather starting to warm up, it’s time to get the garden back into working order.  I have plenty of the stuff that we eat the most, so that is what I will be planting heavy this year.

I have two tomato plants that are actually volunteers from my mother’s house.  I am not sure what variety they will be, we shall see.  Personally I think it is part of the fun.  I have the two tomatoes on the northern most side of the raised beds, as they will end up becoming quite the sun shade for anything behind them.

Next to the tomatoes I planted a two dozen green beans.  Half are from seed I saved from last years plants, half is fresh seed from the package.  I am thinking about adding another two dozen or so plants in about 3 or 4 weeks, to try to stagger the harvest and extend the time with fresh beans.  last year I had planted some “Italian Rose” beans, not sure if I will add them this year or not.  This is a shucked bean and would be for long term storage… or at least for seed stock.

The stump of broccoli is still there… working on it’s second summer now.  I let it grow and cut it back… I repeat this whenever it starts to get out of control.  So far it has worked out pretty well.  The only downside to broccoli in Southern California, is that it bolts really quickly with the warmth.  Getting any decent sized heads is near impossible.

The lettuces mixes are at peak performance.  I have several varieties.  Oak leaf, black seeded Susan (I think), arugula, baby spinach, two or three types of red leafed lettuce, and a couple others too.  The cilantro is now starting to bolt.  All of which had been from seed from last years crop.  The arugula was the surprise winner with my sweetie.  I had thought it would be a little to strong a flavor, but was very wrong.  She absolutely loves it in our salads.

The carrots are starting to come up.  Red cored Chantilly, purple dragon, and a basic long variety, can’t remember the name off the top of my head.  The beets are coming along well.  There had been a random sowing of beet seeds under the cilantro.  While the cilantro had been doing it’s thing, the beets were bidding there time.  Hanging out in all of the moisture that the cilantro would catch and hold onto from the morning dew.

This past weekend, I added two… well four… new members to the family.  Two hop varieties.  Since I started brewing beer this past year, I thought it would be fun and a money savings to start growing some of my own hops.  The two varieties I purchased were Centennial and Northern Brewer.  Two of each, I have read that they like to have similar near them to help stimulate the flower cone formation.  And also, if something happens to one of them,  I have a back up.  I hope the “compost” I planted them in isn’t too… un-composted.  I think the package that states “garden soil” should probably be soil… and not partially composted wood chunks.  But I did do something with the hops that I have not really done in all my years of gardening, I used fertilizer.  Yes, it is organic, but I have really focused on trying to get the composter with the correct mix, to give the right nutrients.

I have this gut feeling that this year is going to be extremely productive.  Let’s hope my gut is right!