Mums & Asters

by Sandy Swegel

It’s Fall in Colorado and the most colorful gardens are the shelves at the hardware store garden centers.  Thousands of mums are for sale. I’m not that fond of the one-on-each-side of the front door look, but I do like to get the small 4 in and 6 in containers and plant them here and there in the garden where things look drab.

You’ve probably figured out that those mums you’re planting this year will never look the same as they do today.  They’ll be taller for one thing….so if it’s a permanent planting, take that into account when you choose their spot.  They’ll also be sprawlier, which is a good thing in my book.  They look a bit too controlled and tidy if you ask me. Much too alien from my garden which is not controlled and tidy.

Do you know the history of your mum? Most likely it started back in June or July when three plant plugs were evenly placed into your 6-inch pot. They had ideal indoor growing conditions with fertilization for bloom…and the part that makes them most distinctive…regular applications of growth inhibitors that keep them short and stocky for that perfect Fall round look.  By next year, the growth inhibitor has long since worn off and no matter how much you cut them back by the Fourth of July, they won’t be so compact.  Which I think is a good thing as you can see in the garden picture of the orange and yellow and red mums I planted two years ago.

If you like more of a wildflower look in your garden, go with asters.  You’ll probably have to plant them from seed because they aren’t sold commercially as much as mums.  But the reward is they’ll reseed themselves (usually not too aggressively) and their flowers will be light and airy and move with the breeze in the Fall sun.

 

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan ~ Fresh Garden Style ~

From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

2 eggplants (1 1b. each)
1 & 1/2 cups heirloom tomatoes cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese grated
1/3 cup parmesan cheese grated
3 large cloves garlic chopped or crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons of fresh basil chopped (extra leaves for garnish)
1 lb. cooked spaghetti
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut tomatoes into small 1-inch pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, basil, oregano, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with hands. Put aside. Do not refrigerate. You want it room temperature.

Cut eggplant into half inch round pieces. Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on hot grill. Cook until tender. Add a mixture of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese to the top of eggplants and cook until cheese is melted.

Drain tomatoes in a colander to get rid of the extra juices before adding the tomatoes to the dish. You can stack the eggplant, tomatoes, and extra cheeses to your desire. Enjoy!

From Mike’s summer garden: eggplant, heirloom tomatoes and sweet basil.

 

Use Red to Make your Garden “Pop”!

by Sandy Swegel

A friend is a marketing guru and always talks about wanting to make things “pop” whether its brochures, interior design or gardens.  Fall is a great time when colors pop. We naturally think of New England with its amazing Fall display. In fact, East Coasters coming to Colorado are often disappointed their first Fall. It is gorgeous here, but it’s pretty darn yellow. Yellow aspens are beautiful, but yellow and brown don’t pop as red does.

A neighbor has a wild red unkempt thicket of shrubs and trees along his fence that makes people stop in the road to take pictures. The key to its glory (besides the fact that it requires virtually no upkeep except watering) is huge shrubs and small trees…all with lots of berries: orange Pyracantha with blue Euonymous, intermingled with red viburnum berries. The whole thing is held together by a wayward Virginia Creeper vine that is one of the plants that does red here in Colorado.

Most of our gardens may be better organized. But a wild uncontrolled area that “pops” with bright reds and oranges is a joy to behold as the growing season winds down. Then the regular yellows and goldens and browns of your xeric garden or your fading vegetable garden look beautiful against their red backdrop.

 

Slow Braised Beef Ribs with Heirloom Tomatoes Served on Garlic Mashed Potatoes

From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

1/4 cup olive oil
6 pounds beef short ribs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1 lb. cooked tender green beans
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup red wine
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cups diced plum tomatoes finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary finely chopped
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 orange, zested
1-tablespoon fresh basil chopped, for garnish
2 tablespoons butter (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Heat about 2-tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat.
Season the ribs well with salt and pepper. Over medium heat, brown ribs for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. You may need to brown them in batches. Remove the browned short ribs to a plate and repeat with remaining ribs and more oil if necessary.

Add onion, red pepper, garlic, and salt and pepper to the Dutch oven and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add plum tomatoes and sauté for an additional 4 minutes. Add the wine, chicken stock, and tomato paste to the vegetables and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. Return the browned short ribs and any juices that have accumulated back into the Dutch oven. Add the orange zest and butter (optional). Cover with a heavy lid and place in the oven and braise for 3 hours or until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone.

Once the ribs are tender, remove the ribs to a platter. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve the short ribs over garlic mashed potatoes, if desired. Add cooked tender green beans, sliced cheery tomatoes, and drizzle some juice on top. Garnish with fresh chopped basil. Enjoy!

From my Mike’s garden: heirloom cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, green beans, red bell pepper, onion, basil, rosemary, and thyme.

 

It’s Always a New Beginning for Gardeners.

Thinking about the beautiful creation stories explored in the services of the eve of Rosh Hashanah that our Jewish friends celebrated yesterday reminds me that for the gardener, things are never really at an end.  There’s always something new to begin in the endless cycles of life.  Whether it is Rosh Hashanah or the upcoming Autumn Equinox or any of the lunar celebrations, every culmination or harvest is also a time to begin something anew.

The need to keep beginning is especially true for the food gardener, especially if you want to keep eating.  So many foods are dependent on seasons – cool season, warm season.  It may seem with the great ripening of tomatoes that the vegetable garden is complete this year, but if you want to keep eating, you need to keep planting: cool season crops, lettuces, sturdy greens that you can eat on all winter.

Some of the things it is time to begin:

Begin a hoop house or cold frame.
If you haven’t already seeded fall greens or carrots and beets, make haste and do it right away.  They need to grow to a good size before winter, so you can harvest even through the snow.

Begin a leaf pile.
Are you ready for collecting fall leaves and beginning again (or adding to) your leaf mulch pile?  Leaves are going to fall….and if you’re ready, your neighbors will bring you all the leaves you want.  A simple sign in your driveway that says “Bagged Leaves Wanted”  will catch the attention of your neighbors who want an easy way to recycle.  Our neighborhood gets over 2000 bags a year that people drop off.  The first year was only about 300 bags….but each year it has grown till we quit counting after 1000 or so.

Begin to fertilize perennials.
If you fertilize with natural fertilizers like blood and bone meal, now is a good time to begin fertilizing perennials and shrubs.  Natural fertilizers break down slowly so Fall is the best time to put them (and compost) out around your plants so they have time to soak in all winter.  Synthetic fertilizers like Miracle-Gro should wait until Spring because they’d stimulate a growth spurt now when the plants should be shutting down.

Begin to clean up.
Start cleaning up diseased leaves and broken plant debris.  Your plants will be healthier next year.

One thing NOT to begin:  Don’t cut down green growing plants because you’re anxious to put the garden to bed.  Some minor experiments have proven to me, that plants that are allowed to die in place and get cut down in later winter or early spring have a better survival rate than plants that get cut down in Fall.  This is especially true for Agastache one gardener I know discovered.

Begin to plant a TREE!
A REALLY IMPORTANT THING TO BEGIN NOW:  Plant a tree.  There are often healthy trees on deep discounts at garden centers.  The best time to begin a tree in your garden is always RIGHT NOW.

Photo Credits:

http://www.facebook.com/greenlifestudios
http://www.veggiecare.com/howto.html

 

Grilled Summer Garden Sandwich

From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

Grilled eggplant, squash, red bell peppers, and onions, topped with provolone and mozzarella cheese, fresh sweet basil, and sriracha mayo, served on a toasted garlic roll.

Coat veggies with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and place on a hot grill. Cook until veggies are tender. Spread a mixture of crushed garlic and butter on the insides of the bread and place on grill until bread is slightly toasted. Cooking the veggies and garlic bread on the grill will give this sandwich a really wonderful smokey flavor. Place veggies on buns and top with provolone and mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and sriracha mayo. The sriracha mayo is what sets it over the edge. Enjoy!

Sriracha Mayo

3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

Mix, the above ingredients in bowl or cup. You can cover and place in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Depending on how many sandwiches you are grilling, you can double and triple the recipe. I made more to dip our crispy fries in. So good!

**Sriracha usually can be found at most large food chains in the Asian section

From Mike’s summer garden: eggplant, yellow squash, red bell peppers, onions, and sweet basil

 

Huevos Rancheros Salsa Verde with Slow Roasted Pork

 From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms       

 Roasted Salsa Verde

1 1/2 lb. tomatillos
2 Jalapeño peppers OR 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Salt to taste

Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well.

Cut in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.

Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, chili peppers, sugar, and cumin in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season with salt to taste.

Makes 3 cups. You will use 1 cup for this recipe and have 2 cups to refrigerate and use on other dishes or with chips.

Huevos Rancheros & Slow Roasted Pork

1 (4 lb.) pork shoulder butt, roast
4 garlic cloves
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons (or more) butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 corn tortillas
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (packed) grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 6 ounces)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Rub pork with olive oil, crushed garlic, salt & pepper. Place in a roasting pan and brown all side on the stovetop.

Turn roast fat side up and add ½ cup of chicken broth to roasting pan and place in oven. Bake at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Bake at 250 degrees for an additional 3 ½ to 4 hours.

Transfer roast to cutting board and let stand 15 minutes. Pull    shreds apart with tongs into chunks.
In a small saucepan, use 1 cup of salsa verde and ½ cup of chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes.

In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add 2 tortillas; cook about 1 minute per side. Transfer to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas, adding more butter to skillet as necessary. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium heat. Crack 4 eggs into skillet. Cook eggs to desired doneness.

Add ¼ cup of salsa verde to plate, place tortilla on top, add shredded pork and top with eggs. You can add a little more salsa verde to the top of your eggs. Sprinkle with Monterey jack cheese and fresh cilantro. You can place plates in the oven to melt the cheese. Enjoy!

From Mike’s yard: Tomatillos, jalapenos, onion, cilantro, and today’s fresh eggs.