from the ground up

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Update: Garlic

Several months ago, garlic kickstarted our garden and our blog. Garlic is easy, versatile, and so rewarding. Since then, the summer heat has become thick around us, weeds have grown sky high and I have completely ignored my garlic.  But, while contemplating our garden last week, my husband cautiously asked  “What do you think is the matter with our garlic?  It looks like it’s dying.”

“It is dying…..back.  It’s ripe!” I said to him, easing his fear that our garden has a failing crop!  It is ready to be gently tugged from the soil.  Of course, not without a little help from my assistant.

Last fall, we planted garlic in one small area of the gardenIt was haphazardly poked into the ground on two sides of a flower bed, leaving ample room in the center for some cutting flowers.  Unfortunately, it was a hurried, last ditch effort to get some garlic bulbs in the ground with snow on the way.  At the time, I was relieved to know it was buried under the soil.  Now, I am thinking this was not nearly enough for our garlic-loving family.  So, plans for autumn are formulating.  More on that later!

This flower bed turned garlic bed lies just outside my greenhouse.  The stature of the garlic varies significantly from one side of the bed to the other.  We are intrigued by this.  Wondering if it is the variety that we planted (and did not document- phooey!) or whether it has more to do with extra watering.

The left side of the bed, below, receives a lot of extra attention.  Extra water from our watering cans, pruning and weed pulling while customers shop in the greenhouse, and of course the constant “Can I water these again, mama?” queries from the 5-year-old master-of-the-hose.  I am betting on this extra love being the difference.

Now the garlic is up, curing in a cool, dry place.  When it is dry, we’ll shake loose the dry soil and store it away in our pantry.  There, it awaits a gentle crush into a batch of green pesto or a hearty winter soup.

Stay tuned for an autumn field trip to buy garlic from a dear friend.

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Mountain Spinach: Orache

Common Name:  Garden Orache, Mountain Spinach

Latin Name:  Atriplex hortensis

Family: Chenopodeaceae: Goosefoot family

This unusual, beautiful plant came to me in this lovely, hand packaged envelope of seeds.

A friend of mine, lovingly tends and collects seeds from her amazing garden, just over the hill from where I live.  In her eclectic, organic garden, she grows many heirloom plants, such as orache.  She dries the seeds and then painstakingly writes out the growing information about the seeds on these packets. My favorite sentence on the packet…Hardiness: Zone 3!  One winter, I grabbed this tiny package of seeds during a holiday gift sale and my garden has included orache ever since.  Some gardeners grow the light green orache variety but the burgundy variety is the one that graces my garden.  Its striking color and texture make it one of the most asked about plants in my garden.

The young leaves can be eaten when tender, raw in salads.  As the leaves age and get larger, they can be used as a substitute for spinach.  The leaves do have a bit of a tart flavor that increases with age.  We prefer them young, mixed into our salad greens.

Do the leaves look familiar to you?  Probably because it is related to one of my least favorite weeds, Lambsquarters, which is also member of the Goosefoot family.

One last note:  Orache is a steadfast addition to my garden, but to keep it this way, I do let it reseed.  I am careful to keep the new seedlings under control.  I don’t want this heirloom traveling to all corners of my garden.

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Pea shoots

“Close your eyes and taste.”






A delicately folded, curled greenhouse treasure.

A field trip to a local, geothermal greenhouse provided us an afternoon snack and a taste of June in May.  The new growth of shoots, leaves and tendrils are the delectable portions grown for consumption.  Choosing a variety is easy, as any type of pea will do for munching.  Several varieties are recommended such as ‘Feisty’, ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ and ‘Dwarf Grey Sugar Pea’.  As the pea plant ages, the tendrils and shoots become tough, so take advantage of them during their first few inches.

On salad, with hummus, or just standing in the greenhouse, they prepare our mouths and hearts for the upcoming gardening season.  As one friend commented while we foraged, “The tendrils are the best part, they are the most pea-y tasting part of the shoot.” Come evening, we shared them on stir-fry for an extra crunch.