Using Up Many Vegetables at Once

I made this for dinner last night, and it was yummy.  I managed to use up my red cabbage and beets, plus onions, carrots, and garlic from the garden, and thyme and dill from my backyard herb garden.  This is from the newish Cooks Illustrated Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.

Beet and Wheat Berry Soup with Dill Cream

Serves 6


2/3 cup wheat berries (not the quick cooking or precooked kind), rinsed

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 cups vegetable broth

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage

1 pound beets, trimmed, peeled, and shredded

1 small carrot, peeled and shredded

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Dill Cream

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup minced fresh dill

1/2 teaspoon salt

1.  For the Soup:  Toast wheat berries in dutch oven over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and beginning to darken, about 5 minutes; transfer to bowl.

2.  Heat oil in now-empty pot over medium heat until shimmering.  Stir in onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomato paste and cayenne and cook until darkened slightly, about 2 minutes.

3.  Stir in broth and water, scraping up any browned bits.  Stir in toasted wheat berries, cabbage, beets, carrot, bay leaf and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until wheat berries are tender but still chewy and vegetables are tender, 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours.

4.  For the Dill Cream:  Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in bowl.

5.  Off heat, discard bay leaf, and stir in vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Top individual portions with dill cream and serve.

Carrots: Lessons Learned This Year

carrotsThis year's early-season carrots struggled through an infestation of Asiatic Garden Beetles, a nocturnal garden pest that needed to be painstakingly removed from the soil during thinning and weeding. The early crop took a bit longer than expected to mature, but the beetle-busting efforts paid off with truly lovely carrots.

When our late-season carrots got off to a rocky start, we began to worry. We seeded an area vacated by fava beans on July 7th. Germination was good, the seedlings began growing, but then they all died. All except a few that had been in the shade of the mature carrots at the ends of the rows. We're not certain, but it may be that the seedlings became too dry at a critical period and quickly withered in the mid-July sun. They were replanted and the second carrot crop now appears to be on its way to greatness. But for my part, I'd like to document a few carrot lessons we've learned this year.

1. Favor varieties with short growing seasons. Two crops divides the season into mid-April to mid-July and mid-July to mid-October, giving a generous 91 days for maturity. Yet, carrots grown in the peripheries of the season take longer than the predicted 75 days.

2. Plant the rows close together. The carrots shared a bed with salad turnips this year, dividing one 6' x 9' planting bed into two beds 3' wide. We planted five rows 6 inches apart and the spacing was excellent.

3. Sow plenty of seed. Carrots take their time germinating (1-3 weeks), so they don't allow much opportunity to infill seed bare spots without paying a heavy price in lost time.

4. Keep the newly-seeded soil moist. We used shade cloth after re-seeding in July and left it in place until the seedlings had a good roothold (at about 2" tall). This may be less of a problem for the early crop.

5. Lightly thin the seedlings each week. Successive thinning doesn't take long, and it results in the best seedlings surviving to maturity at the ideal spacing of around 1 inch apart.

More on fermenting

Just like my Sue, my sister of the soil, I've just made my first-ever batch of sauerkraut, which spent four days on the counter before moving to the well-known "cool, dry place," which in my house is the fridge. Its base was Napa cabbage from the garden, and the secondary ingredients included both carrot and parsnip from the same source.

Honestly, I don't really like sauerkraut — it's "sauer!" — but I had my reasons to try it. First, is the locavore reason — what good is a bumper crop if your only choices are to give it to the neighbors or put it into the compost? 

Secondly, I was writing a story about natural fermentation, the centuries-old method of food preservation, for the Boston Globe, and wanted to have a feel for what I was talking about. It's one of the privileges of journalism, to learn and experience more than I would if I didn't have a need to know.

Anyway, the story was published this morning. Though it didn't make the print version, the online presentation includes a tips box from Dan Rosenberg, founder and co-owner of Real Pickles, a Greenfield, Mass., company makes about a dozen products using only local produce and natural fermentation.

If remember to, I'm going to bring my kraut to the garden Saturday morning for a tasting. C'mon by!

Visitors, human and caterpillar

I opened the garden for a couple of hours in the afternoon and quite a few families came through.

Three Chinese-American boys became quite attached, staying over half an hour and wanting to eat various veggies. I gave them a few cherry tomatoes, and even a tomatillo. The older boy wanted to take home seeds and plant. Wait until spring I suggested. He may come Saturday, when I said we'd be there.

His father came by, not speaking English (Jerry is in the 4th grade at Brackett and is fluent). He found a caterpillar in the carrots.

On Butterflies and Caterpillars

We've recently discovered several brightly-striped caterpillars feeding on the carrots, fennel and parsley. At first, we assumed them to be Monarch butterfly (which are similarly striped), but this was questioned by an astute garden visitor (we're fortunate to have many).


Upon further investigation, we've identified the caterpillars as those of the Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) also called the American Swallowtail Butterfly. This butterfly's larvae feed on members of the carrot family: Dill, Fennel, Golden Alexanders, Parsley, Parsnips, Queen Anne's Lace and Carrots.


Fall Crop Update

The peak of the harvest is past, and yet we tried second plantings of some crops because we had the space, to see what would happen.  With about a month to go, here's their progress.

Cabbage & Cauliflower:  large leaves, producing well, but no sign of heads yet.

Carrots:  leafy fronds are doing well; no sign of poking out of the ground.

Beets:  alive but struggling.

Spinach:  mostly eaten by Something.

Peas:  half-height, base leaves yellowing, no sign of peas.

Lettuce:  looking good!  Might harvest some next week.

Also, here's an update on some first plantings:

Eggplant:  *continues* to produce, though more slowly.

Beans:  the bush beans produced another handful; the pole beans have disappointed.

Potatoes:  we pulled a single plant to obtain some potatoes for display at Town Day.  The number amidst the roots was extensive, and while mostly small-to-tiny, there was at least one big red one.  From just one plant!

Squash:  the tiny zucchini was accidently harvested; there's still a medium yellow squash; and the pattipan has several small fruits (not to mention flowers) which it thinks it has time to make bigger -- we'll see.

The mildew is back to some extent on the squash, and worse, has jumped to the other side of the garden and covered the collard leaves.

The rest of the greens (kale, chard, arugula and other herbs) still doing well.

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