Easy Peasy Garlicky Roasted Ichiban Eggplant 

Too much eggplant? No such thing. But should this situation arise in your garden, I suggest you roast it.

First, and on a total side note, I find it awkward to tell people about my “eggplant plants.” It sounds weird and redundant. I accidentally find myself talking about my “egg-plants,” but there (sadly) aren’t eggs growing on them. Turns out, eggs come from chickens and other assorted animals. I can’t be the only one who’s experienced this. It’s a minor crisis, I know, but still worth the cathartic rant.

Now onto the roasted tasty discs of eggplant…

Take as many eggplants as you want. The more the merrier, and they roast down to an iota of their original some.

Cut them in 1″ discs and lay them out on a baking pan in a single layer.

Lightly coat them with a flavorful olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Add a clove or two of finely minced garlic and toss around to spread the garlic love around. Don’t leave anybody out. (On a side note, beware with how much salt you use because the eggplant will shrink when the water content evaporates and the flavors, including salt, will concentrate and intensify.)


Put into a preheated 375 degree oven and roast for about 20-25 minutes. Be sure to peek in at about the halfway mark to make sure things aren’t going from delicious to burned. If your cook’s intuition is telling you the oven is too hot, reduce it to 350 and be vigilant.

I like to serve this eggplant as a side dish or add to a salad once it’s chilled. Or, as in the case the other night, I eat it before I can even take a photo of it. It’s so darn good.

Happy gardening and blissful eating to you!

Until next time,

Jenna

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The Little Gardener that Could…Stop Being So Darn Stubborn

Happy Spring, everyone! I hope you’re all having lots of organic gardening successes and very few failures this season. But, if you’ve had one or two boo boos, I hope you’re writing them down as to not repeat them next year. I talk from experience, and I’ve certainly had my share of wretched mistakes. Occasionally, I’m stubborn (*wink wink*). But I’m growing as a gardener, steward of our planet, and as a rational human being. Learning from past failure is the reason for this post. Truthfully, I was afraid to write about this too soon. There was no way I’d jinx our success. But it happened, everyone, it finally happened. Houston, we have cucumbers…two kinds!

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This is a truly momentous occasion.

The Cross-Country Hybrids and Poinsett 76 cucumbers started out like any other: little, teeny tiny, cukes with unpollinated flowers at the end.

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Isn’t it cute?

We were excited. But we knew, oh, we knew, not to get too excited. You see, we’ve tried this three years in a row at different times of the year, different gardening seasons, and different locations in our gardens. Every time (except for the one freak-volunteer-plant-in-January incident), we get both pickleworm and melonworm plus a lovely case of downy mildew. And this time was looking to be no different.

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See the little jerks? Pickleworms were already invading.

But, as several people have told me to do, I finally broke down and got some Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT). And it’s my hero, my knight in shining armor, and my bestest buddy. BT a soil-dwelling bacteria that kills the worm larvae that make growing anything in the curcurbita family nearly impossible in our region. From squash to melons to cucumbers, it’ll work. And it’s OK for organic gardening, safe to beneficial insects (including bees), humans, and other animals. The one drawback that I see is that it degrades in sunlight and has to be reapplied often. It’s time consuming, but it’s saved our cucumber crops.

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Cucumber Vines Basking in the Florida Sunshine

To treat, I spray all areas of the plants, but I especially focus on the new growth and flowers because that’s where we’ve found the most damage in the past. The pickleworm and melonworm moths lay their eggs around sundown and are active for only a few hours, but they lay enough eggs that hatch enough larvae to really cause some serious damage. Most of the time, the damage is so bad by the time it’s noticed that there’s no solution other than to rip out and discard the infested plants. I’ve literally cried over this. But not this year (not yet, anyway).

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Cross-Country Hybrid Cucumber

We’ve been harvesting quite a few perfectly shaped, sweet as sugar cukes a couple times a week. It almost seems too good to be true. I’ll bask in this glory for as long as I can. I’ll show off my cucumbers to my fellow vendors at the farmers market, and bite into one every single day. So, friends, the moral of this little story is to stop being stubborn. Don’t repeat the same mistakes season after season, and don’t give up! Listen to the seasoned gardeners around you and take their advice. And enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labor.

With dirty fingernails and an armful of cucumbers,

Jenna

Why do we garden?

“Of the seven deadly sins, surely it is pride that most afflicts the gardener.”

― Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

the salad I speak of

Why do I have a garden? I started thinking about that very question as I enthusiastically told a coworker what was in my bowl: Red Russian Kale, Louisiana Pink Tomatoes, Cosmic Purple Carrots, roasted Detroit Dark Red beets, etc. Do people often get this excited about salad? Why was I so overjoyed?

I think there’s something extremely gratifying about seeing something go from seed to plate. It’s more fun than farm to table. It’s labor. It’s nurture. It’s my urban garden.

It’s a lot of work. My back gets sore, my legs ache, and I always have dirt under my nails. Wearing gloves just doesn’t cut it. I like to feel what I’m doing because, well, gardening is intimate. It’s a kinesthetic art just as much as it’s visual. I love it so much that I’m always posting photos of my little backyard farm. As I look back through my Instagram feed, I see just how proud I am. Sometimes, I even take selfies with veggies (don’t judge).

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crazy kohlrabi

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so much kale

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heirloom tomatoes after the rain

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cosmically awesome

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my first spinach leaves

But is it cheaper to grow your own? Some people think that we save a lot of money by growing our own veggies. It’s quite the contrary, actually. I’m sure I spend more. The veggies cost nearly nothing to raise from seed, but it’s the soil, the water (our rain barrel never has enough), the organic amendments, and the time. Oh my gosh, if time really were money…

In the end of the day, it’s amazing to say “this was a seed and now it’s in my tummy.” I love to share with my neighbors and friends, and I really love to talk to other gardeners. There really is a sense of pride, joy, and commitment to playing in the dirt. It’s a way of life, and I wouldn’t trade my shovel and dirty fingernails for anything.

Until next time, my gardening friends. It’s Spring! Go get dirty.

my happy place

Gimme a Beet!

Hi, friends. It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, and I wished time didn’t move so quickly, but owning a business plus working full-time is more than I bargained for. And, while I planned on writing a nice, long out-from-under-this-rock-called-life re-emergence post… (you get the picture).

I’ve never, ever successfully grown a beet. I’ve tried and tried. Detroit Dark Reds just don’t work. Perhaps it’s our climate, perhaps it’s the soil, perhaps it’s me. I threw in the towel…but only for a nano-second. I opted for another variety: Chioggia. Their candy cane stripey-ness called to me. I needed to try. And guess what? Can you guess? Can you? Can you?

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My Very First Chioggia Beet

I couldn’t be any more excited. I could just scream. I was so impatient that I plucked it from the ground this afternoon and immediately cut into it. It’s a beauty. I’m proud. I win.

Until next time (which I promise won’t be too long from now),

Jenna

Yay, Florida Fall!

It’s finally Fall! I love the Fall. For a lot of people, it means leaves are turning beautiful shades of crimson, orange, and goldenrod, but for us gardeners in Florida, it means a whole new season of gardening. Actually, it’s the kickoff to eight glorious months of garden-friendly weather. Summer is a moot point; I’ve given up. Planting in the Summer only leads to heartache and asking myself “why, why, why did I do this…again?” So I wait. I patiently (haha) wait until October.

When the heat and humidity start to subside, that’s when the good things start happening in my garden. What’s more is that our homemade black gold is ready to be used! And we build a new bed to replace the hot mess that was there before. Thank goodness, too, the old bed was spent. See?

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The Old Overgrown Bed

The new bed is an 8′ x 8′ that replaced the 3′ x 6′ bed we used to have in the same location. This is the best spot for pure, radiant sun in the fall and winter. And it’s right next to the rain barrel and hose.

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The New Bed’s Frame

But this bed takes a lot of dirt! It’s taken many trips to the garden center to make up for what our homemade compost didn’t cover. No matter, it’s the Fall and we’ve got a lot of stuff to grow! I’ve grown some mean broccoli on this side of our house, and we plan to grow enough to freeze. And speaking of broccoli…

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Mean-Looking Broccoli

Seed shopping gives me palpitations and a major case of the “I-want-them-alls.” Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is a mecca. I’m really tickled because they specialize in heirloom, organic, and non-gmo seeds for the southeast region. I only bought a couple things.

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I Behaved Myself

This weekend will be a busy weekend for us. I’ve already got baby heirloom tomatoes started indoors, and they will be planted this weekend, too. I’ve been hardening them off, and they’re nearly ready. And, compost bonus: there’s oodles of mystery cucurbit seedlings doing incredibly well. Butternut squash? Straight Eight cucumbers? Spaghetti Squash, even? Don’t know. Don’t care. It’s all good.

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Mystery Cucurbits

We’ve got sun, temperatures perfect for germination, and good dirt. What more could a Florida girl ask for?

Until next time,

Jenna

 

 

The Best Organic, Heirloom Tomato Season…Ever

So far, 2014 has been the most fruitful, pun intended, tomato season I’ve ever had. I started everything from seed and everything came from heirloom seeds come from Tomatofest. Please share in my happy. And, if I’ve jinxed myself, it was worth it. 🙂

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Yellow Currant tomatoes from Tomatofest

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More Yellow Currants from Tomatofest

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Super sweet Chadwick Cherries from Tomatofest

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Beautiful cluster of Yellow Currants from Tomatofest

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Thai Pink Egg, Hawaiian Currant, and Yellow Currant tomatoes all from Tomatofest

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Yep, more Yellow Currant and Thai Pink Eggs from Tomatofest

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Four varieties in one day: Thai Pink Egg, Hawaiian Currant, Chadwick Cherry, and Yellow Currants…seeds all from Tomatofest

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The late Tomatofest bloomer: The very ugly Martino’s Roma tomatoes finally ripening

I hope everyone’s having a productive, delicious, and healthy season.

With love and dirt under my fingernails,

Jenna

Dropping a Mallet on my Face and Reminiscing

Not only is it Throwback Thursday, but I’ve officially written 100 posts on Delicious Daydreams (feel free to applaud) and wanted to do something a little different.

Boy does time fly. It seems like yesterday that I started my first blog: “Jenna Dreams of…” It was short-lived, but a lot of fun. I mostly wrote about my escapades in food and gardening, so I re-imagined the whole thing and DD was born. It’s a little more than a year later, and here we are.

And while I’ve said “so long for now” to “Jenna Dreams of…,” I wanted to share a post that still makes me laugh…and wince.

In case you didn’t realize this, I’m a klutz. A lot of people say they’re clumsy, but really aren’t. It’s not cute to pretend such things. Being klutzy isn’t like being a unicorn. It’s not special, and it’s not pretty. Band-Aids and Neosporin are a big part of my life. And, no matter how the cartoons make it look, walking into door frames and shutting drawers on my fingers doesn’t end up with cute little birds flying above my head in concentric circles. Getting hurt isn’t fun (but it sure does entertain my friends).

So, blogosphere, please share one of my most memorable gardening/blogging moments with me. I posted this more than two years ago on “Jenna Dreams of…” It’s OK to laugh.

It’s true. I’ve found yet another way to injure myself. And this is a doozy. Today I spent the day gardening and decided to brace some PVC with some heavy duty 7-foot garden stakes.

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All was well until five minutes later…

I grabbed the mallet from the garage and gave it to my boyfriend. He said it was unnecessary because he was able to push them right into the ground, but noooooooooooo…..I’m smarter. I picked up the mallet, held it two feet above my eager face, and began to pound the stake further into the soil. After about three whacks, I dropped it right on my mouth. I DROPPED A MALLET ON MY FACE!!! So what did I do? I threw the mallet down and walked right to the bathroom to spit out blood. I looked in the mirror, said, “SERIOUSLY, JENNA?,” went to the kitchen, got a frog-shaped ice pack from the freezer, wrapped it in a towel, held it to my throbbing, bloody lip, and then sat down in a dark room to play Simpsons Tapped Out on my iPad.

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So lovely. So very lovely.

The moral of the story is that in the history of morons, idiots, Tim “the Tool Man” Taylors, and so on, I have to be the first to accomplish this. If I’m not alone, I’m not even sure that would make me feel better because I don’t want them (by “them,” I mean people like me) driving school busses, flying planes, or operating carnival rides.

Happy Saturday. Get me some Advil.

And, that, my friends, is that. I hope you had a chuckle…even if it was at my expense.

Happy and safe gardening to you all,

Jenna

How Does Our Organic, Urban Garden Grow: An Update

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Things are looking pretty good around here! I posted a while back about how Spring was treating us in sunny Zone 9, and now it’s time for an update. A month is like a jillion years to a gardener, so here goes…

The Kentucky Wonder beans have been nothing but amazing. For the past two weeks, I’ve gotten a small handful every day. For three plants, that’s pretty good! The wax beans are also going strong.

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The heirloom crookneck squash, on the other hand, was a total bust. Powdery mildew invaded and stunted the growth of the plants. I waved the white flag pretty early because I knew the pot could be put to better use. This is the best they’d ever look.

Crookneck Squash Babies

The same failure goes for our cukes. I swear I’m going to give up on even trying to grow them. The only time we have luck is when the plants are volunteers. I don’t know what it is. I suspect the humidity and salt air is the downfall, but who knows? This was our one delicious, crunchy, crowning jewel:

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I also grew an “onion.” Laugh it up. It’s OK.

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The heirloom lettuces and Swiss chard ended up in the compost heap after a good run. I tried to save seeds from some of the bitter, bolted babies, but it didn’t work out. Perhaps they’ll self-seed in the fall.

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But, the tomatoes. The TOMATOES. I’m pleased as punch. And, I know, a gardener should never count their peppers before their picked, but I’ve got to toot this horn! I’ve been harvesting a bunch of yellow currant tomatoes every single day.

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I even harvested the first Thai Pink Egg yesterday. All of our 24 plants are doing pretty well. A few have yellowing leaves here and there, and the tomatoes from one of our Martino’s Roma plants have blossom end rot (none of the others do, even in the same bed), but still, I’ve never had such a successful season. I guess I should knock on some wood.

And, surprisingly, the carrots are still going strong. Succession planting has been our best friend.

Here’s yesterday’s harvest:

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All in all, this is our best season yet. Disaster could certainly strike at any minute, but for now, I’ll bask in the glory of our organic gardening endeavors.

 

 

 

Big Things are Growing in our Tiny, Urban Garden

Spring is upon us. The birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, the trees are nearly filled in with lush, green leaves, and the garden is a-growin’. I’m always so hopeful in April. While I’ve already seen aphids, I’m not yet disappointed. (Click here for how to fight them organically.) Why? Because we’ve got gorgeous things happening:

Kentucky Wonder Bean plants, although tiny, are strong as can be…

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Stunning little heirloom crookneck squash babies are beginning…

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Heirloom tomato plants, all 23 of them, are green and working their way toward greatness. Some of them aren’t as grand as others, but they’re trying…

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I’m even pushing forward with several varieties of heirloom lettuce which is a bit questionable for this time of year in Florida…

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The carrots are looking good, the kale appears happy, the basil, sage, and parsley are enjoying the weather, and the onions and garlic should be ready to harvest soon. And what’s more is that we’ve already harvested one cucumber (oddly shaped little guy) and a handful of strawberries!

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Unfortunately, the swiss chard looks more like Swiss cheese, but…

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I can’t really complain about the minor gardening failures. Perfect is impossible, and I’d never expect as much; gardening is a set of learning experiences, wild experiments, and notes-to-selves.

I will say that, overall, the Spring has been good to us! How is your Spring going, fellow gardeners of the blogosphere? I’d love to hear from you!

Until then, happy sowing, digging, and playing in the dirt,

Jenna

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Calling all Foodies: It’s Crunch Time for our Broccoli Harvest

We find broccoli easy to grow around here. No joke. It’s one of the few things that doesn’t give us problems. We always get an amazing yield, and the harvest is sweet and tasty. Starting them from seed indoors in December is easy peasy…

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Hardening them off in late January is a safe bet and, planting them in February is a piece of cake.

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We love the brassica family around here. Pests aren’t an issue, and we find them slow to flower. There’s a long sweet spot with these plants and, therefore, they’re a staple in our winter-spring garden.

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The one issue with the ease of growth (stupidest phrase you’ve ever heard, right?), though, is trying to come up with unique recipes for these perfect florets.

Broccoli slaw? Check.
Roasted broccoli? Check.
Broccoli and orzo pasta? Check.
Steamed broccoli? Check.

What to do, what to do…

This is where you, my friends of the blogosphere, come in. I need some new and interesting broccoli recipes! Healthy or coated in cheese and butter (oooooooh, breadcrumbs, too), all things not mentioned above are welcome. And, what’s more is that if I make it successfully and love it to bits, I’d love to post it to Delicious Daydreams!

Thank you, culinary whizzes, for your help. Happy cooking!

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