Tuesday, January 29, 2013

more winter squash

I was perusing the web for more winter squash ideas, and found a couple I just had to share them with you. There are some creative gardeners out there. These are good reminders to think outside the box when devising plant supports.
Train your squash along a fence and this show stopper will
give you easy access at harvest time.
Photo borrowed from allaroundus.blogspot.com.

An old tree stump provides plenty of support
for these gourds. It would work just as well
for winter squash.
Image borrowed from m.gifford.

I also found a couple more recipes to try. This one from Motive Nutrition boasts two of my winter time favorites: butternut squash AND kale.

A friend gave me another recipe based on the Native American 'three sisters' combo - corn, bean and pumpkin. (Thanks Steve!) Give these two a try, along with the Winter Squash and Carrot Soup I raved about, and send the winter blues packing.

I'll type up a clearer version and give a cookbook source soon.

Happy souping,

Thursday, January 24, 2013

eating in season...winter

Ah, eating in season. It's part of the subtitle of this blog, and something I very much enjoy. Since it's the middle of winter and a little early to be getting spring fever, I'm thinking more about food than I am about gardening.

Image borrowed from
Mill City Farmers Market, Minneapolis, MN.
One of the things I like best about edible landscaping - and gardening in general - is the seasonality of what comes to the table. I eat the right things at the right times at the absolute peak of freshness, and that is how it should be. That's fine and dandy during the summer when our gardens and tables abound with zucchini, strawberries, tomatoes, eggplant, and and and.... But what about these long days of winter? Days when it seems like nothing ever again will grow and the world is doomed to an eternity of white. Okay, maybe I'm experiencing just a pang of spring fever...eh-hem, winter blues now stuffed neatly away in my down parka pocket...

The scene out my window. Now you understand.
So, how do we eat in season during a season when nothing grows? Well, unless you have a root cellar or do a lot of canning, (neither of which are part of my present existence) you, like me, are probably spending some time in the produce section of the grocery store. During winter I tend to gravitate to veggies that would likely be in my root cellar were I lucky enough to have one. These are tasty delights like winter squash, cabbage, potatoes and sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, onions, turnips, garlic, and even celery! All things that lend themselves well to roasting, baking and souping (?) - cooking methods that provide the warmth and richness that we northern denizens crave this time of year.

Winter squash is one of my favorites, and I am forever searching for a really good squash soup recipe. Most I've tried are a bit thin, even those that are pureed, and don't have the richness I long for. And I usually avoid the ones that are too creamy or overly spiced with curry or other exotics, because I generally like my food to taste like the food it is. (That said, I'm always a little over-zealous with the freshly ground black pepper, leading Dirk to remark, "Wow...peppery", to which I respond, "Hmm, you think so?")

This is the only photo taken of my squash-sweet potato-carrot soup production.
Please disregard the delicious cocktail attempting to steal the show.
By the way, winter squash seeds are tasty when roasted like pumpkin
seeds and dusted with a little cinnamon and sugar. Mmm! 
I found a simple and spectacular recipe named "Zuppa di Carote e Zucca Gialla"{Carrot and Winter Squash Soup} in Williams-Sonoma's Rustic Italian cookbook by Domenica Marchetti. The recipe is also conveniently located on her beautiful blog, Domenica Cooks. The pancetta croutons sold me on it immediately. If you know what's good for you, you will not neglect them when you make this, as emotional health is just as important as physical health this time of year. Click on over to Domenica Cooks to check out the recipe. The carrots added extra sweetness, and I added a sweet potato for even more orangey, healthy deliciousness.

You might be thinking...what about growing winter squash in your edible landscape? Let me just say this one takes some creativity. The large, coarse leaves make quite a statement, and can look really great when interplanted with chard, kale or other sturdy plants to break up the monotony. The vines are long...like take-over-your-garden-long. There are clever ways to save space, using trellises and other supports. Or, check out some of the newer bush types if you're really tight on space.


Colorful chard seems to be doing a great job corralling this squash vine.
Image borrowed from Santa Clara County Master Gardeners.
If you choose to trellis your plant, the individual fruits might need to be supported. Just something to keep in mind. The tricky part really comes later in the season, as it's generally recommended to harvest after the vines die back. Hmm, that doesn't sound so pretty. But...if you have enough other gorgeous plants growing around the vine, you might not even notice. On the other hand the autumn visage of crisp, tawny vines rambling along the fence line might be just the thing to bring the feel of harvest season into your yard. Sometimes we just have to adjust our concept of beauty.

Edible landscaping guru Rosalind Creasy can always be counted on to
provide creative ideas for growing plants beautifully, including squash.
Image borrowed from www.rosalindcreasy.com.
If you've decided to grow winter squash, don't stop at butternut and acorn. Look for unique looking varieties and those that tout excellent flavor. Delicata is one of my favorites.

Oh, here are a few good resources for growing winter squash in the garden:

Growing Pumpkins and Squash in Minnesota Home Gardens
Growing Pumpkins and Other Vine Crops in Wisconsin (Geared toward market gardeners, but includes LOTS of helpful info for gardeners too!)
Growing Winter Squash: Cornell University Garden Guide
Winter Squash: University of Illinois (Variety descriptions.)

And here's a handy guide for storing fruits and vegetables from the University of Wisconsin.

More about sweet potatoes (and the oft confused yams) and carrots next time. Now, I think I need some soup.

Stay warm out there!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

hot off the presses

I am happy to announce that my new book The Edible Landscape, published by Voyageur Press is here ahead of schedule! One hundred and sixty colorful pages of photos and sketches, tips and tricks, ideas and inspiration; all in hopes of helping you add a little bit of flavor to your yard.

Most of the photos in the book were taken at local gardens around the Twin Cities area. Many thanks to the individuals and organizations who graciously welcomed me and my fabulous photographer and art directors into their gardens. Many agreed to plant specific things so we would be able to get the shots we needed. They gave us access at ridiculously early hours so we could catch just the right light. And they welcomed us back week after week in order to get the perfect coloring on a plum, capture the zinnias in full bloom, and of course harvest lots of chard! Huge thanks go out to The University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Science and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, Jane and Jim Gilbert, Maureen Hark and Blue House Garlic, Charlene McEvoy and Doug Olson, Laura McGuire and McGuire's Urban Farm, Theresa Rooney, Dawn Spraungel, and Julie Weisenhorn. This book couldn't have happened without your generosity.

Of course the beautiful photos wouldn't have happened without Paul Markert, photographer extraordinaire. His vision, patience and flexibility contributed not only to a beautiful book, but also made the process really fun for me.

All the talented people I've been working with at Voyageur Press have been very supportive, flexible and accommodating to my many whims, visions and persnickety details. And they put together one heck of a beautiful product that I am really, really proud of.

Finally, I owe endless thanks to my family, friends and colleagues who read over various chapters, confirming my statements, catching mistakes, and pointing out just how many times I use certain words over and over. I sound like a much smarter person thanks to all of you.

The Edible Landscape is available at all the usual online outlets; however... in keeping with the local flavor of the book, please stop into your local bookstore or garden center and ask them to order it for you. Let's support our local shop owners!

With that said, go out and get the book and start planning for spring!