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Plum Torte

These are golden with a tinge of green; perfect for tortes but too tart to dry.

These are golden with a tinge of green; perfect for tortes but too tart to dry.

I dream not in sugar plums but in Italian prune and this year my dreams are all coming true; the neighbor’s tree is bursting with succulent blue fruit.  I harvest the plums in succession for each recipe tastes best with a different level of tartness.

First up are the wonderful New York Times Plum Tortes. Over the years I have modified the recipe a bit and here is my version:

Plum Torte

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup regular or brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup unbleached white or wheat flour, (if wheat is used it will raise less, you can also do a blend of flours)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • If unsalted butter is used add in a pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • Enough halved and pitted plums to cover top of torte
  • Sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle on top
I use my food processor to make the batter.

I use my food processor to make the batter.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream sugar and butter in a bowl. Add flour, baking powder, salt and eggs, and beat well.

3. Put the batter in a pan.  (I like to give these as gifts or make them ahead for potlucks so often used disposable aluminum pans.)  Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and cinnamon to taste.

4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze.

These tortes freeze beautifully but need to be cooled then well wrapped in foil.

Ready for baking.

Ready for baking.

All set!

All set!

 

There is a new pottery painting place up the street from our house. I went there with my daughters and was wondering what to make when I thought “Of course – more garden art!” . Who doesn’t need yet more lovely things in their yard?

 

First select your tiles

First select your tiles.

 

Then choose your paints.

Then choose your paints.

 

Do your background.

Do your background.

 

Go wild!

Go wild!

Once the painting is done the store will bake them and then they are ready to put in your garden.

 

 

Spinning with Pet Fur

Spinning with pet fur can be done!  In this warm weather Mr. Bunners, aka Attila the Bun, is shedding his white fur in big soft billowy clumps.  Petting him it felt sort of like cashmere so I decided to collect it and try spinning it into yarn. First I tried just the fur but the fibers are too short to do much.  Next I carded it into some existing wool I had and that worked great.  It also worked to lay the fur along the wool as I was spinning.  I think this process would work for dog and cat fur too.

I’m looking at Angora rabbits with much more interest.  Has anyone tried raising them or spinning their fur?

spinning pet fur

Natural wool fibers

spinning pet fur

Wool with the bunny fur laid on it.

spinning pet fur

Fur spun with wool using a drop spindle.

spinning pet fur

Here’s what it looks like knit into a small square.

 

 

 

With the warm weather all the fruit is coming in strong! In fact there’s so much it’s time to start canning and jamming.

Friends have been telling me about the virtues of Pomona Pectin for quite a while. I recently got some from PCC, and now I’m hooked. Because it doesn’t require sugar to jell, you can easily vary the amount of sugar you use or you can use a different sweetener all together; the result is a fruitier, fresher jam which is quite nice.

Pomona Pectin

You can get sweet peaches now from the farmers’ market. If you are going to can with farmers’ market produce, always ask to see if they have any produce they have set aside as too blemished to sell. You can often get really good deals this way, and as long as the produce is not spoiled it cans up beautifully for a fraction of the usual price.

Millions of peaches!

First wash the peaches. Then to make them easy to peel, put them in boiling water for a couple of minutes then in cold water until the fruit is cool to the touch. The peels should slide right off.

Transforming into jam.

Next mash them or pulse them in a food processor. For jam you want pieces of fruit so don’t puree them. Put the peaches in a pot with lemon juice and calcium water. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add in the pectin and sugar and bring back to a boil and cook for one to two minutes.

A little extra zip.

I like to add in some flavoring or spices but you need to be careful not to overpower the fruit. Spices can also intensify over time so it’s better to use less to begin with until you get an idea how much tastes good to you.

Clean jars

Carefully pour the hot jam into sterile jars, do a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, and you’re good to go.

Dahlias!

These showy flowers are very easy to grow from tubers planted in the spring and they brighten up the mid-summer garden with amazing blooms.

Thanks to The Garden Hotline for this great info:
“Dahlias ARE edible! The petals from the flowers are delicious in salads. They taste like a sweet lettuce. They do not keep well so put them on just as you are serving the salad. You can also eat the tubers… kin to Jerusalem Artichokes… They are a South American plant and the tubers have been eaten for a long time there!
In our temperate climate they can often be left in the ground to overwinter but if you have a cherished plant it’s a good idea to dig up the tubers in fall and store them in a cool dry place to replant the following spring.”

The range of shapes, sizes and colors make this a great flower for almost any garden.  They last a long time when cut too so work well in bouquets.

They can be used for making beautiful dyes as well. Give it a try! I use alum as a mordant.

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Crazy Carrots

By Garrettt Okrasinski

Carrots are simply fun to grow. As the green stalks get bigger it fill my garden and my anticipation of chomping into a fresh carrot builds! Then I pull them and they are nothing like I imagined. This year my carrots are odd twisted and leggy looking. Oh well!

The twists and splits in carrots happen when they run into an obstacle in the soil (guess I had a lot of obstacles this year). If you have “hairy” carrots, this can be caused by too many nutrients in the soil.

Though they are not perfect, my carrots still taste great! Below are my top contenders for Crazy Carrot this year.

Even if they are misshapen, it is still fun to pull a carrot and see what you got. Good news, you can still plant another batch of carrots and try again.

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Do you have any photos of funny carrots you would like to share?

 

 

Pickled Radishes

My husband loves pickles.  He loves half sour cucumbers, spicy kimchee; you name it – if it’s pickled he’ll eat it.  These pickled radishes are some of his favorites and they are so easy!

The fresher the radishes the better the pickle.

Once you’ve washed and trimmed your radishes cut them into thin slices and pack them in a clean jar.  Next pour in rice or white vinegar until all the slices are covered.  Add salt and sugar to taste.  For a bit more flavor I like to throw in green onions, garlic and ginger.  Once they are assembled put them in the fridge and let sit for a couple of days.  I won’t tell you what my daughter said these pickles smell like but as with a good stinky cheese the taste is great.

Yum

Kimchee

What’s crunchy, spicy hot and really good for you?  Kimchee!  Here’s how to make your own.  It’s much easier than you would think.

The first step is to chop your veggies and spices:

Next mix the spices together:

Mix in the veggies:

Once all is well mixed put in a jar and let sit until it’s fermented:

Once your kimchee is ready invite friends over and eat!

Here’s a recipe with more detailed instructions.

Uses for Love in the Mist

Along with having a beautiful name Love in the Mist or Nigella damascena has many other uses.  This native to southern Europe self seeds prolifically so be ready to weed or put it in a place where it can run wild.

The blue, white or pink flowers look great in cut flower bouquets.

The blue, white or pink flowers look great in cut flower bouquets.

With its deep jewel tones it’s easy to see how this flower has been popular in cottage gardens since Elizabethan times.

The dried seed pods lend shape and interest to dried flower arrangements.

The dried seed pods lend shape and interest to dried flower arrangements.

A relative, Nigella sativa, is known as black sesame and is used as a cooking spice in Indian food.  It is questionable whether the seeds of N. damascena are edible or not so I would not eat them; some sources say they are tasty and others say they are actually quite toxic!

The dried seeds can be used in craft projects.

The dried seeds can be used in craft projects.

 

 

Time to Mulch

Doesn’t the word “mulch” have a great sound to it?  It means to apply a layer of material to your soil to conserve water, prevent weeds and to increase the richness of your soil.  Right now is a great time to do all of these things as the weather will be hot and dry for the next month. 

This plant will get a boost from the compost and I won't need to water as often!

This plant will get a boost from the compost and I won’t need to water as often!

You can use a wide variety of materials to mulch your garden but my favorite is a layer of compost.  I find that my plants need a little boost this time of year and this provides a good one.  Lot of people use fresh grass clippings as mulch but be a bit careful with this as there can be lots of weed seeds, the grass can mat and prevent water from reaching your plants and as the grass breaks down it can tie up nitrogen in your soil.

Go mulch!

Go mulch!

As our days get shorter, cooler and the rain returns mulching can promote slug growth so if you do a winter garden be vigilant for these pests.