How to Harvest Lettuce

One of the common mistakes home gardeners make with their vegetable beds revolves around when to harvest. People tend to let things go too long without picking or harvesting from the plant. My personal theory is that you’re all waiting for what you’re growing at home to look like what you buy at the store, but that’s the wrong way to approach it! The beauty of growing your own food at home is that it really shouldn’t look like you bought it from the grocery. Homegrown food is far more ‘rustic’ than anything you will find commercially grown. Embrace it! With that, I am often asked by clients and friends, “When is the right time to harvest lettuce?” More often than not, I will simply say, “Harvest the lettuce when you want to eat the lettuce.” A typically infuriating answer, no doubt! I don’t intend to be entirely blasé about … Continue reading

Tomato Varieities

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to get-your-tomato-plants-in-the-ground week. If you haven’t already (and really, you needn’t have) this is the perfect weekend to select and plant your tomato bed. But what to plant? In the Pacific NW, it’s best to chose varieties that mature quickly, as we have a shorter, cooler summer than say, Long Island. Big slicing tomatoes and juicy heirlooms will seldom ripen completely and should therefore be avoided. (Plus, you can buy them at the farmers markets from our Eastern Wa farmers.) A better choice is any cherry tomato variety. CHerry tomato plants produce smaller fruits, by nature. These small fruits are able to come to maturity AND still have time for sun-ripening sweetness. Ditto for the paste tomatoes, which are best for cooking. Paste tomatoes are your Romas, San Marzanos, Principhe Borghese, etc. These tomatoes are excellent for canning, as well, as they have … Continue reading

The Pantry Garden

Check outthis article for great garden books in today’s Seattle Time’s Magazine from garden & plant guru, Val Easton. She gives a little shout to Urban Pantry that rocks! The last chapter of my book is titled “The Pantry Garden” and I have to admit to thinking I had a stroke of genius with that title. That’s exactly what it is – a section on how to establish a garden that supplies your pantry. You don’t need a lot of space and a pantry garden doesn’t take much care (as its full of perennials and self-seeding plants). Hell…….you don’t even need a yard! Here is a pic of my pantry garden, as it exists right this moment. The anise hyssop from last year re-seeded itself into several pots and is flourishing and the other plants popped last week and put on a ton of growth.

Vanilla Quinoa Pudding

This recipe is quickly becoming a favorite from readers of Urban Pantry. I’ve received a bunch of feedback and accolade for putting this together. I can’t take full credit, of course, because there really are no new ideas. I got the idea for using whole grains in desserts from The Splendid Grain by Rebecca Wood. That books has influenced my healthful cooking so much, and I love it. It gets front stage placement on top of my fridge, though I use it less and less as of late. It’s a wonderful thing, to share a recipe. I found this cool blog Seasonal Menus this morning. The author is mysterious (ie I have NO idea who they are or why they’re writing about food) but the blog is simple and concise. I love that they cut to the meat, so to speak, and just post recipes and notes. They added Orange … Continue reading

How To Build a Cloche

A cloche is used in the garden in order to create a warm environment for plants. Cloches are made of several different materials, but for the most part I make small cloches over my veg beds in the same way that farms and nurseries use hoop houses.  With a little bit of PVC plastic piping, and a length of clear thin plastic sheeting, you can raise the temperature of the air and soil around your plants by 10 to 12 degrees. That is a pretty substantial difference in environment that certain heat loving plants really appreciate. We do this in the garden in order to set out plants early. In Seattle, for instance, it’s not warm enough to sow basil seeds until early June. But if you build a cloche and ‘make’ it warmer, you can sow your basil seeds in May. I use cloches in Spring, to set out … Continue reading

Garden Strategy – Manipulating Crops

This is a time of year when vegetable beds are in transition. It’s time to set out the heat lovers – tomato, cukes, peppers, and sow beans, melons and corn. What to do, then, when you still have lingering winter crop? This week, I wanted to transition my fertility rotation from leaf/root to flower/fruit. I had four White Currant Tomato starts, but smack in the middle of the bed is three rows of kale. I was about to rip them out and eat them for dinner, when the light bulb went off. Because its still too cool for tomatoes at night, I built a cloche around that bed. Kale and brassicas in general, hate heat. They bolt, as they want to set seed…..and fast. And when brassica sets seed and flower, that make sweet little broccoli-like stalks – we call them rapinii or broccoli rabe when broccoli does this, but … Continue reading

Economical Gourmet

Urban Pantry – Economically Gourmet with me! 6-8:30PM – Come to Class! Amy Pennington, author of “Urban Pantry Cookbook—Tips for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen” will prepare recipes featured in her recently released book. She will show us how to make quick, tasty meals without a trip to the grocery store. Menu: Walnut Garlic Chicken, Minestrone Soup, Panzanella Salad, and Ravioli. Please note that when purchasing cooking classes online, your seats are not confirmed until you receive a receipt in the mail via US Postal Service. If there is no availability you will be notified as soon as possible by phone or email and not charged for your order. at Dish it Up in Magnolia. cost: $75