Simple advice for a better life.

My Flower Garden – May 2014

May 2014 blooms- Eastside patch

Spring this year had a slow start, with quite cold nights, and numerous very rainy days.

Summer is almost here, and my perennial flower garden is in full bloom.

Today I will share some pictures of my gorgeous blooms.

Columbine 3

These blooming Columbine are from seeds my sister sent to me from Krakow, Poland.

I seeded them last year, and this spring transplanted the plants to space them out more symmetrically throughout my East-side flower patch.

Columbine 1

These are beautiful double-blooms of light lavender Columbine.

Columbine 4

Here is a bunch of paper-white gorgeous blooms of my Columbine collection.

Columbine 2

These dark purple Columbine flowers are a different type, as you can see.  They are not the double-blooms, but rather resembling little bells hanging downward.

Orange flowers

These flowers are a mystery to me, since they just appeared in my garden this spring, and I almost pulled them out as weeds.

I am so glad I gave them a second chance to grow to maturity, and now am enjoying their lovely bright orange blooms.

Nature's beauty

These are the easiest flowers to maintain, since they seed themselves from year to year, and you never know where they will appear.  I absolutely love their delicate blooms in many different shades.

May 2014 blooms

Wouldn’t you agree that blooming plants are very therapeutic and relaxing?

I love working in my garden after work, and in my free time, just to relax my mind, and to be close with nature.

Please share your thoughts and experience about your gardening adventures.

 

Summer season - flower patchAutumn season - flower patch

Autumn season has been here for almost a month now, but the favorable weather we have been enjoying  makes us cling onto summer, at least for few more days.

Spring and Summer are my favorite seasons.  I like the beginning of Autumn, while all the leaves change colors, but once they fall off, and leave everything so starkly looking, I begin to miss my happy summer days.

Since I love gardening, end of Summer brings a lot of work into my already busy schedule, in preparation for the Winter season.

Today I will share some pictures of my garden during this transition period.  In the top picture you can see my East side flower patch in its full bloom during the summer, and how it is getting more and more bear at this time.

Westside flower patch - mid summerWestside flower patch - Autumn season

This is my West side flower patch during the Summer and now.  This one actually looks better now, since these flowers enjoy the cooler nights, and really spread out.

Red Canna standing strong...not wishing for early frostEvergreen all trimmed for winter, and Hydranga changed its color once againCosmos flowers still hanging in there

Here we have few of my summer plants  still trying to “hold their own”, to add a splash of color to my otherwise dreary looking garden.

The Hydrangea is a very interesting plant, since it changed its flower color for the 4th time this year.  It started with green color, then turned to blue, then changed to beige like, and now it is kind of burgundy.

My last veggie crop for this yearLast tomato crop - picked green, ripened with timePreserving a cucumber for seeds

 

These are my last crops from the Summer gardening.  I picked off the remaining green beans, few green peppers, and to my surprise, I dug up couple of potatoes….must have missed them few months ago.

A week ago I picked off all of my green tomatoes, spread them over a thick layer of newspaper covered with paper towel, on the table in my sunroom, and look how nicely they matured into beautiful red tomatoes.

The yellow looking cucumber is no longer edible, but rather a source of succulent seeds for next year’s crop.

Autumn season vegetable garden

This is how my vegetable garden looks like now.  Almost everything has been harvested, with the exception of  Dill Weed, Italian Parsley, Red Beets, and Sorrel leaves.

collecting dried up flowers for next year's seeds

 

Every year I pick off dried up flowers, and collect seeds for next year’s seeding of the same flowers.  This is a real money saver!  Seeds are not cheap!

Passion Fruit plantPassion fruit

Photographed above is my new plant in this year’s garden.  It is the Passion Fruit plant.

I failed to capture the beautifully dainty flowers this plant produces, but you can click here to see some pictures.

I am not sure how large this fruit will grow, and if it actually will be ripe enough to consume, but right now it is the size of an apricot.

If you ever grew your own Passion Fruit plant, please share some tips.

Nettle plant

To my total surprise, I found this plant growing in my garden…don’t know how it got there, but it is called Stinging Nettle.

Nettle leaves are edible, while still very young and tender, but once they mature, watch out….they are not a friend of mine.  You barely touch the plant, and it will sting you  something fears, and cause temporary blister like bumps on your skin.

While visiting Poland, I have noticed Nettle Soup (zupa pokrzywkowa),  and Scrambled Eggs  with Nettle, on a restaurant menu.   I wish I was brave enough to taste it, but maybe next time…

I have been told that Stinging Nettle has many homeopathic medicinal benefits, and found a link to support some of these beliefs, so please check it out.

My grandma used to brew dried Nettle leaves to soak her feet to relieve arthritis pain.

Now I understand why some chefs incorporate it into their favorite dishes, and here I thought it was just a nasty weed in my garden.

I still would love to know how it ended up in my garden, as this is my first time to come across Stinging Nettle here in the US.

I was so amazed by it, and did not want to destroy it, so I transplanted it into a pot, since like any other weed, this one will overtake my whole garden in no time, if I let it grow freely.

Have you ever experienced a contact with Stinging Nettle?

Please share your experience with all of us.

Happy Halloween - decoration

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

 

 

Homemade Fresh Tomato SauceThe harvest season in my garden is slowly coming to an end.  All is left are few more tomatoes, Parsley, Green Peppers, Sorrel, Chives and few Red Beets.

Since the tomatoes decided to ripen all at once, my kitchen got busy with cooking homemade tomato sauce.  It’s a long process, since I hardly ever cook ONE thing for 4 hours, tending to it at least every 20 minutes….but it’s all worth it, once I get a taste of the finished product…delish!

What a difference between the flavor of the homemade sauce, and the store-bought one; but I wouldn’t want to always make my own sauce…way too much work, and it takes so many tomatoes to produce only few cups of sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 10-15 medium tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs. Butter
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Green Pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 Carrots, shredded
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
  • 1/3 cup Burgundy Wine
  • 2 stalk Celery
  • 2 Tbs. Tomato Paste
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 3 springs of Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
  • 1 Tbs. of Butter
  • 1 medium onion, whole

Directions:

  1.  Bring to boil a large pot of water.
  2. Remove any blemishes and core from the tomatoes, and submerge them in the boiling water for 1 minute.
  3. Prepare a large bowl of ice-cold water, and remove the tomatoes into it (this hot/cold bath will crack and loosen the skin on the tomatoes for easy peeling).
  4. Peel off the skin, and remove seeds.
  5. Cut into chunks 3 tomatoes, and puree the remaining tomatoes in a food processor.
  6. Set aside.
  7. Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a sauce pan.
  8. Add chopped onions and garlic.
  9. Saute for 1 minute, or until translucent.
  10. Mix in peeled and shredded carrots, and green pepper.
  11. Saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  12. Add tomato puree, seasonings, bay leaves, celery, and wine.
  13. Cover, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes.
  14. Add tomato paste, butter,  whole onion, and parsley springs.
  15. Cover, and simmer another 2 hours, also stirring every 15-20 minutes.
  16. Discard Bay leaves, Parsley springs, whole onion, and Celery.

Serve hot with your favorite homemade pasta, meatballs, spaghetti meat sauce, or tomato sauce to bake with Eggplant Rollatini.    You can also cool it off and store it in the fridge for later use, or freeze it in freezer bags to use even later.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Tomato Salad 2Growing up in a household with an abundance of home grown fruits, vegetables and herbs, made me accustomed to include them in my daily diet, and loving them all.

Meatless dishes are a welcome change to our family’s routine of meat based meals.

During the summer months, my mom utilized her home grown fruits, herbs and vegetables , in most of her cooking and baking.

Today I will post one of the tomato salads she used to prepare, which brings back many childhood memories.

This salad can be served as a side dish, or as a light lunch, accompanied by a piece of toast, or a piece of fresh Jewish Rye Bread, smeared with sweet butter.

I am sure you will agree that homegrown tomatoes have much richer flavor, and smoother texture, than the store bought ones, making this simple salad that much more delicious.

Sliced cucumbers and radishes may also be added to this salad, to enrich its color and flavor.

If you are not a big fan of sour cream, you may use Greek Yogurt, or omit them both, and enjoy still very flavorful salad, but much lighter in calories.

Since sour cream was not available during those days in Europe, my mom would use heavy cream mixed with clabbered milk .

This recipe yields 2-4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 Tbs. chives, chopped (0r you can slice 1/2 onion)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbs. sour cream

Directions:

  1. Wash the tomatoes, and cut out stems.
  2. Cut each tomato in half, horizontally, then cut each half into 6 or 8 wedges.
  3. Peel and mince the garlic
  4. Place the tomato wedges, minced garlic and chives in a medium bowl.
  5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  6. Fold in the sour cream, just to coat the tomato wedges.
  7. Sprinkle some chopped chives, as garnish.

Enjoy!

 

Pickling cucumbers - Day 1If you like pickles, this post will interest you, and you will be pleasantly surprised about how easy it is to make your own delicious pickles.

You already know that besides cooking and baking, I also enjoy gardening.

This year my garden did not do very well, but I did have lots of tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers and cucumbers.  My green beans, red beets, corn, zucchini and squash were not as productive.

My sister does a lot of canning and pickling, so she encouraged me to pickle my own cucumbers.

She shared her recipe, but I did not have the Red Currant leaf or horseradish root, so I had to improvise and use the ingredients I had available.

Since I wanted to use my pickles as soon as they were ready, rather than preserving them for winter,  the recipe is quite simple, and it does not require any special equipment.

If you are wondering about the type of pickling jar I was using….well….I did not have a jar large enough for this project, so I used a large glass vase……it worked perfectly fine.  I sterilized it first, of course, and used a tea towel  over the top, during the pickling time of about 4 days.

Pickling my own cucumbers was very easy, fun, and rewarding, especially after sampling the finished product.

Homemade pickles

Ingredients:

  • 10 medium pickling cucumbers (they are short, firm, and low on seeds)
  • 10 medium garlic cloves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 10 Allspice kernels
  • 2-3 whole Dill weed stalks with seeds
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 3 quarts of cold water
  • 1/2 cup of Kosher Salt

Directions:

  1. Prepare the pickling brine by boiling 3 quarts of water, with salt, then set aside to cool off to room temperature.
  2. Wash the cucumbers under running water, and brush off the small pricks found on their skin surface.
  3. Trim off both ends, and cut each cucumber into 4 sections, lengthwise.
  4. Set aside.
  5. Peel the garlic, and cut each clove in half, lengthwise.
  6. Trim off the roots of the dill weed, rinse the stalks under running water, set aside.
  7. Clean your jar (vase in my case) with hot, soapy water, and rinse well.
  8. Place half of the dill weed stalk at the bottom of the jar.
  9. Drop in half of the peppercorns and whole allspice.
  10. Place half of the cucumbers in the jar.
  11. Place another dill twig over cucumbers, drop in more garlic and spices, plus a bay leaf.
  12. Add the remaining cucumbers, cover up with another dill weed twig, and pour the brine over the cucumbers until totally submerged.
  13. Tie the top of the jar with a breathable material (such as a tea towel), and keep it in a dark, cool place for few days, to let them pickle.
  14. Once the cucumbers are ready (4 days later), you can leave them as is, or remove the dill weed, and transfer them  into few smaller jars, along with the garlic, spices and pickling brine.
  15. Close each jar with a lid, and store them in the fridge, to extend their shelf-life.

I use pickles on  sandwiches, as well as in Deviled Eggs, Potato Salad, or even in a veggie soup to enhance its flavor to an interesting light tangy taste.

 

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