Thursday, May 26, 2016

Garden Pests ~ Climbing Cutworms

Last fall I allowed the kale to self seed in a 4'x12' bed so I would have plenty to harvest through winter and into spring. To my surprise, by mid-winter all of the small to medium sized plants had been totally stripped of every leaf. I was blaming it on slugs until today...

Pupa of 'Large Yellow Underwing Moth'
While preparing that same raised bed for this year's winter squash plants, it did not take much digging to find the culprits who cleaned out the kale crop... climbing cutworms! They love winter brassicas and devour plants from about December through March. They pupate in April or May and once they move to this stage they are no longer feeding. Their pupa are these mahogany 'bullets' found in the soil. I found and removed upwards of 60 of these pupa from last winter's kale bed.
Besides the garlic and strawberry beds this was the only raised bed not covered with black plastic since the fall of 2014. I have had a problem with climbing cutworms, millipedes and slugs for the past 4 years and decided to leave the garden fallow for a year. I was planning on putting a few chickens in the garden enclosure to organically clean up the soil but that just has not happened yet. This revelation has put plans for chickens on the front burner again!

For more information and photos of the Climbing Cutworm, check out Linda Gilkesons'  December 8, 2014 Gardening Newsletter

Till next time... Happy gardening!

Photo by Sally Rae  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sweet Potato Salad

When I stopped eating the nightshade family; (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers) I had cravings and felt pangs of deprivation for 'potato salad'! I had to find a substitute and began to experiment with sweet potatoes. They are available in a variety of colors and textures and are very different from a white potato... some are white fleshed with a dry texture, some are brilliant orange and moist.  

Erroneously we call the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes yams. A little history lesson... several decades ago when orange-fleshed sweet potatoes were introduced in the southern US, producers and shippers called them 'yams' to distinguish them from the traditional white-fleshed type. This was the English version of the African word 'nyami', referring to the starchy, edible root of the Dioscorea genus of plants. Which is why most people still think of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes as yams regardless of their true identity!!  
For more information on Sweet Potatoes, including a soup recipe, visit my previous post from last January, where I discussed this topic at length in 'Sweet Potato or Yam'
Whether are traveling for the Victoria Day long weekend or hosting a backyard pot luck, this salad is a safe bet with an oil and vinegar dressing rather than mayonnaise.

SWEET POTATO SALAD            Yield: 4-6 servings
For those of us who avoid night shades, this salad is delicious served warm or cold! 

2 lb. orange sweet potatoes
Sweet Potato Salad ~ delicious warm or cold!

1 sweet onion, red or white
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pecans; roasted and coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. cooking Sherry
1/3 cup grape seed oil
1-1/2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Toast pecans on a bake sheet with shallow sides at 350F for 3-5 minutes, Remove from oven, transfer to a plate and set aside. Increase oven temperature to 425F and lightly oil the bake sheet, set aside. Peel and wash sweet potatoes, dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Peel onion and dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Toss diced sweet potato and onion in a large bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place on prepared bake sheet and spread out into a single layer. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring once.
While the sweet potatoes cook, prepare the dressing. Whisk together Dijon, wine vinegar and cooking Sherry. Pour grape seed oil slowly in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Stir in minced parsley.
When the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, but not mushy, transfer to a bowl. Gently mix in toasted pecans. Add dressing and gently toss to coat. Serve warm or cold. Store tightly covered in the fridge.

Till next time... enjoy a safe, Victoria Day weekend and Bon Appétit!  

Photo by Sally Rae
Recipe collaboration with Elizabeth Williams

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Can You Freeze Guacamole?

Place plastic wrap directly on top before freezing
A great question for fans of this avocado based dip. If you have lots left and don't want to discard it or want to make a larger amount and freeze it for later. 

The good news is yes... you can buy frozen guacamole, so why wouldn't you be able to freeze homemade? The most important fact is that the quality of the guacamole after thawing depends strongly on its ingredients. Ingredients like chopped tomato and peppers will make the sauce watery when thawed. You won't really know if your favorite recipe freezes well until you try it. The next time you prepare some, make a little extra to freeze for a few weeks, then thaw and taste. That way you'll be sure if this method works for you. If you're not happy with the outcome, adjust or omit some of the ingredients and try it again.  
Thaw in the fridge and serve
To freeze guacamole: spoon it into a freezer proof container with a tight fitting lid. Before sealing, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole to remove all the air. You can sprinkle lemon or lime juice on top of the dip before the plastic wrap if desired. Another method is to transfer it to a freezer bag; sprinkle lemon or lime juice on top, squeeze all the air from it and seal tightly. Be sure to freeze in portions that you will use at a time. Date and label with ingredients if desired and freeze for no more than 4 to 6 months. Thaw in the fridge before serving.

Not everyone will find the outcome of frozen then thawed guacamole tasty or even acceptable. You will need to experiment on your own to figure out if this method works for your needs or not.

Till next time... Happy Mother's Day and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae