Seed Season

My mailbox is full of gardening catalogs and the excitement of spring and summer is almost here.  So many new ideas every year are contained in these great publications.  Yes, there is something to actually having a printed catalog in hand, when searching for my lettuce seeds for my summer kitchen garden. Most often, I am reading and learning from the various companies as they showcase their products.

I love to shop these catalogs and complete a bit of research on the types of seeds that might work best in my short season Michigan garden.  I know that my yard does not have the greatest and longest sunny exposure, so I am always careful to choose seeds that will grow to maturity within the summer months.

This year, I will grow a variety of mesculun salad leaves and other lettuce mixes. In years past, I have had great success with lettuce in my garden. And fresh garden lettuce is so spectacular, that it is hard to compare to anything found in a market.  For this reason, I think everyone should have a small kitchen garden. So satisfying!

planting pickles and peppers

After a full Spring season of garden clean-up and a fresh layer of mulch for the paths, my kitchen garden is back in operation.

Earlier this week I had a chance to plant my summer small-sized cucumber pickles and mild sweet peppers.  The garden continues to be filled with herbs, some vegetables, and perennial flowers for flower arranging and simple enjoyment around the perimeter.

An assortment of bulbs bloom from mid-Spring through Summer, including daffodils, tulips, small iris, bearded iris, and an assortment of Allium. I did have some herb loss from our very cold Winter, which included several sage and thyme plants.

I am always so pleased to watch my kitchen garden plantings come back year after year. My perennial herbs are sage, thyme, lavender, sorrel, lemon balm, walking onions, lambs ear, oregano, chives, rue, savory, marjoram, comfrey, and horseradish.  I planted annual herbs this year of flat leaf parsley, rosemary, lemon verbena, chamomile and basil either in ground or in planters.  I also have a variety of other kitchen garden plantings which include garlic planted last fall and garlic chives.

Nothing is better than enjoying fresh herbs in summer recipes.  Summer crisp and crunchy pickles off the vine, sliced and sprinkled with sea salt are worth the wait.  I usually plant a bush type pickle for my small space garden.

The garden is 30 feet by 30 feet surrounded by a wooden picket fence, which has been lined inside with green chicken wire to prevent rabbit entry. The paths are mulched with hardwood mulch, and the beds are lined with brick.

My Fourth of July tomatoes are planted near my deck this year, however; mache, arugula and other lettuce varieties are also being grown in the kitchen garden.  Anticipation!

 

Raspberry lettuce hearts with pecans

 

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Last week I needed a quick appetizer to take to a community meeting, and decided on this easy favoSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESrite.  These lettuce hearts are easily found at my market and can be combined with a variety of toppings.  Everyone seems to like a small piece of crunchy romaine with a tangy spread of cheese.

For this event, I decided on raspberries, cream cheese, and chopped pecans.  Inspired by The Yummy Mummy Kitchen cookbook, it took me only 15 minutes to pull this recipe together. The author suggests using endive lettuce, though I am not able to find that product very easily in my home market.

There are many other variations, using herbed cheeses or even goat cheese.  A variety of fruit or nuts could also be substituted.  The bottom line is that this is a quick and easy recipe that could be pulled together as guests are driving up the driveway.

There were enough lettuce hearts in the package to make 30-35 individual servings.

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cherry street market –a wonderful fall experience

Last Friday, we took a relaxing Fall drive Up North to Traverse City Michigan.  I certainly do love Northern Michigan and will never give up an opportunity to experience wonderful food, shopping, and of course the Lake.  The weather was lovely and the air was filled with the crisp cooler weather that has rolled into our state.  I enjoyed every minute of the day, especially my stop at the Cherry Street Market in Kalkaska. ( http://www.cherrystreetmarket.com/)

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The vegetables and fruits were overflowing the shelves into bushels and pecks for sale.  The apples, squash, concord grapes and pie pumpkins were beautiful.  I love everything about a farm market.  I love that it is outdoors. I also love that the produce looks and tastes better than anything available at any local grocery store.  The romaine lettuce is deep green.  The corn is super sweet.  The apples are crisp and perfect without any blemishes. I love that I don’t have to “pick through” the pile, because every specimen of fruit or vegetable is picture perfect.  The freshness factor is overflowing.

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I purchased two large bags brimming with fruits and vegetables for $17.  This amazes me, as produce is so expensive at the grocery store. The abundance is breathtaking and the atmosphere is charming.  I love the harvest season and everything about farm produce.  I encourage everyone to have a small garden.  For those items that cannot be grown at your home due to hours of sun available in your yard, or even just space, I encourage supporting local growers in your area.  I have never been disappointed with the quality or the selection at the end of a growing season.

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open faced tomato sandwiches

all of my summer tomatoes have ripened and for the past few weeks, i have been making a variety of recipes to take advantage of their delicious homegrown taste. this past week, i made open-faced tomato sandwiches. this process is really not even a recipe, but just a personal preference on how to make a tomato sandwich.
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one of the best steps of the sandwich, is to grow your own tomato. if it is an heirloom tomato, then the sandwich is even better. i toast my slice of bread, add a smear of low-fat mayonnaise, a bit of crumbled crispy bacon, some fresh lettuce leaves, and then the sliced tomato. sometimes i even top with some sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

served with a side salad, this is one of my favorite “end of the summer” meals to enjoy for lunch or dinner.

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a lettuce harvest from my garden

i am a beginning vegetable gardener.  i am still learning how to grow certain vegetables, and don’t always have perfect success stories in my garden.  that is why i am very happy to have the time to be able to practice gardening.  as a registered nurse, i have always favored the term “nursing practice”.  it has given me the confidence to try different measures to make a patient feel better.  therefore, gardening practice seems so logical to me.

this year, i do have a success story in the garden.  growing lettuce varieties from seed has become easier for me with dedicated soil within my fenced garden.  i still enjoy growing lettuce in pots, high above the ground level, away from hungry bunnies.  my deck always seems to have some space for a few lettuce pots. this year, my second harvest was delicious last week.

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the lettuce leaves grew to nearly four inches and were both tender and tasty.  i rinse them in a stainless colander and then spin them in my salad spinner, allowing them to dry on paper towels on the countertop.  within one-half hour, the lettuce leaves can be turned and allowed to dry some more.  i store them in the refrigerator, just waiting for a delicious salad opportunity.

i usually choose a variety of lettuce leaves, mache, and arugula for the best tasting assortment.

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cherry vinaigrette on homegrown lettuce leaves


 

it was time to cut some lettuce leaves from my deck garden.  the single lettuce leaves were tender and delicious.  having grown to three to four inches in length, i simply cut them and washed and dried in a salad spinner.  the lettuce flavor is so mild and sweet, also being a great source of Vitamin A.

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growing home lettuce in pots is so easy.  no worries about rabbits munching them in the evening.  to serve with this lettuce, i tried making a cherry vinaigrette.  i used a sample of fresh fruit vinegar from mange.  the sample was provided for me to taste and review for the blog.  the fruit vinegars are made in Vermont, and are shelf stable vinegars.  they are perfect for basting, cooking, and even for cocktails.

using my basic recipe for vinaigrette, i mixed three parts of salad oil to one part of the cherry vinaigrette.  i also added a pinch of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.  the dressing on the lettuce leaves was delicious.

for more information about fruit vinegars, please follow this link:  http://www.freshfruitvinegars.com/
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.