Posts Tagged 'vegetables'

Herbs down, veggies to go.

Container Garden, part 2 of 2.

Little toes and little plants.

After an unusual high amount of rain, and some changes in my work schedule, I finally found time to finish my 2nd container garden.  The herbs are doing well in the trough.  Now, to move on to growing veggies.

I spent some time walking the halls of Lowes, and they had this nifty little plastic, snap in to place, pre formulated raised garden.  For $40.  For a 46″ square, by 8 inch container.  Really?  I am by no means a carpenter, but I figure I can make something bigger, and better for cheaper.  The back of the prefab showed how you could make clever designs if you bought additional sets.  If I wanted something 9 inches tall and 8 feet long, I needed to spend $160 on their crappy sets.  That wasn’t happening.

I wandered down to the lumber section and found some “premium white wood boards.”  I picked up 4 8’x9″x1″ planks, and a 2″x2″x8′.  I also grabbed a gallon of water seal, and some brushes.  The nice thing about Lowes and The Depot is that they’ll cut any board you buy twice for free.  Seeing as how I wanted a 4×8, I had them cut 2 of the boards right down the middle.  That save me a lot of measuring and cutting time later.

I started by water sealing all the wood.  Then, on to building.

My design was pretty simple.  Cut the 2×2 into foot long sections, use them as the corners, and screw the boards on to them.

Outside corner.

inside corner.

I made the posts a little taller than the boards for a few reasons.  1st, I can staple a net over the top of the whole garden if birds become an issue.  I can lash trellis material to them if I need to.  It made it look a little more decorative.  I can add a “2nd story” to it if I want to add some height for visual effect, or for deep rooted plants.  And, most importantly, you can’t tell if one is a 1/4 inch longer than the other, cause they aren’t next to each other.

I put another board in the middle of the container to add some structural support, and to allow me to tend to one half of the garden at a time or to segregate aggressive growers (like mint).

New garden. You can see the trough herb garden in the back.

I shoveled the rock back from the yard, and loosened the soil up a bit.  I dropped the new container in to place and tried to get it as level as possible.

I dropped a trellis in, for cucumbers and beans, and filled half the container with garden soil and composted mulch.  Near equal parts.  I didn’t want to go back to buy more soil, which is why I split the garden in half to begin with.  I’ll get to the other half in the coming weeks.

I bought this little prefab trellis.  but I’m starting to think about lashing bailing wire between the two brown posts that support the covered patio.  That way, i wouldn’t be limited by height.  I’ll get back to that.


I got some fill dirt, and mixed it in with the soil.  Again, about equal parts dirt, soil, and mulch.  That was my magic recipe in the last garden, and I can’t argue wit the results.  X-man helped me mix it all together.

Kids are good at anything that involves dirt.

Then we started planting.  X-man but in some corn and carrot seeds.

Hopefully we'll reep what we sow.

X-Man catches me planting.

Zucchini, Crook Neck Squash, Red and Yellow Bell Peppers, Poblanos, Cucumbers, and String Beans.

Future dinner.

And now, we wait.

I’ll get to the other half here pretty soon.  I’d like to do some leafy greens, but I think I missed my season.  I might go for strawberries, or maybe some easy flowers for the kids to enjoy.

This was not a complex design, nor was it a complex project.  I wasn’t looking for an architectural award.  I was looking for an economic way to grow veggies to feed my family.  Total bill from Lowe’s was under $50, with the seal and brushes.  All I needed at home was a circular saw, a drill, and a handful of screws that I already had.  I think this container will last a long time.  I’ll update any modifications I make to it.

Time to make my kitchen more self sustaining.

Container Garden, part 1 of 2.

Ever since leaving Maricopa, I am resentful about not having my herb garden. In Copa-town, I had the most beautiful basil plants ever. It started as two, that grew to be over 2 feet in diameter. Those two seeded and grew about a dozen the next year. Those dozen turned into 30. And by year four, I was thinning, re-potting, and giving away more than 30 plants to friends, just so mine would have ample room to grow. I would literally harvest pounds of basil leaves 2-3 times a year. It was amazing. Then we moved….to a yard that has 2 citrus trees and a lot of 1/2 inch granite.

I couldn’t take it anymore. The other day I needed fresh basil, and I had to pay $2 for a little 3oz package at the store. Despicable. I told Dess we needed make a container garden. One for herbs, because I love cooking with fresh herbs. And one for vegetables. Because beyond fresh veggies in your yard, you also have the option of canning them. I’d love to get to the point where I am growing and canning more than 50% of the veggies we eat.

So weekend we began. The Reverend Lovejoy was kind enough to donate some water troughs from his homestead to my cause.

The larger one is about 6 1/2′ t in diameter, and the smaller is 3′. Once I got home, I realized the logistics of filling the larger one with dirt (Pi)(r2)(height) was more than I wanted to do this weekend. I chose to start with the smaller one.

We went to the Depot, and bought some potting soil, mulch, a couple flats of herbs and veg starters, and some seeds.

The troughs were higher than I anticipated when I asked for them. Filling them with premium potting soil would have broken the bank. So I started with some fill dirt from a field down the street.

Topped it off with an even mix of top soil and composted mulch. put the little starters in there and watered thoroughly.

Clockwise from the top:
Dill, Cilantro, Rosemary, Basil, Jalapeno Pepper, Taragon, Oregano, and Parsley. Lemon Thyme, and Tabasco Peppers in the middle.

We also got three varieties of tomatoes and put them in pots. Pink Ladies, Rome, and Bonnie Grape.

And now we wait…….

I’m building a second raised planter out of premium white wood shortly. I need to wait for the rain to subside, which doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon.

Spicy Cabbage and Jicama Slaw w/ Preserved Lemons

So we got a Jicama in our last order from Bountiful Baskets.  Not something I would usually buy, but something I am familiar with.  I wasn’t in the mood to research a recipe, so I started raiding my fridge, and sharpening knives.  This recipe is 100% original.

Spicy Cabbage and Jicama Slaw w/ Preserved Lemons.

  • 1/2 Green Cabbage
  • 1/2 Red Cabbage
  • 1 Jicama
  • 3 Large Carrots
  • 2 Green Onions
  • 1 Jalapeno
  • 2 Quarters Preserved Lemons
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Apple Cider, Rice Wine, Red Wine Vinegar (any combination, I did equal parts
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper (is it really necessary to list this?)

Slice both cabbages thinly.  Peel the jicama, and either cut into thin julienne or use a fine tooth blade on a mandolin slicer.  Do the same for the carrots.  Combine the cabbages, jicama, and carrots in a large bowl, and salt liberally.

Slice the green onions into thin rings.

Cut the jalapeño open, and remove seeds and veins.  If you’re brave, cut a thin slice to taste the jalapeño, to see just how hot it is.  Jalapenos are fickle, some are very hot, others are not.  The only way to know what you’re getting yourself in to, is to taste it.  If you’re not brave, have your wife taste it, like I did.  Dess will eat Pepperoncini out of the jar, and suicide wings by the dozen.  Our pepper was very hot.  I could by the way Dess’ face light up, and the curses she was throwing in my direction.  Based on my scientific method, I decided to use only 1/4 of the pepper.  You need to make your own decision. The pepper should add a burst of heat to the salad, not turn it in to salsa.

Cut the pepper into the thinnest strips you can muster.  Then cut those strips into tiny cubes.

Remove two 1/4’s of a preserved lemon from your jar (for directions on how to make preserved lemons, see my next entry).  Fillet off the flesh of the lemon.  Using a very sharp knife, slice off as much of the pith as possible.  Take the rind, and rinse it under cold water.  This little rind contains a massive amount of salt and lemon flavor.  Again, you want it to be a little burst of flavor, and not a citrus salt lick. Slice the rind into the thinnest strips you can muster.  Then cut those strips into tiny cubes.

Add about a teaspoon of Paprika, 1/2 t Cumin, ground pepper, the green onions, jalapeno and lemon rind to the cabbage mixture.  Add approximately 1/4 cup vinegar(s) and 2-3 tablespoons olive oil.  Toss to combine.  Adjust spices and vinegar to your taste.  I preferred more vinegar, heavier on the rice wine and cider side.

Let the salad marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
I found this to be a great summer salad.  The cabbage and jicama were crisp and refreshing.  The paprika, cumin, and jalapeño added the smallest amount of heat and Mexican flare.  And the preserved lemon gave it these little pockets of fresh and bright citrus notes.  This was a hit with the whole family, and will definitely be made again.

Bountiful Baskets

Last time I mention Bountiful Baskets.  But I thought they deserved their own thread.

Bountiful Baskets is a produce co-op that was started in Arizona. It has since expanded to Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Washington. If you live in these states and aren’t participating, you’re missing out.

Actual Basket Contents From Site In Phoenix

Here’s how I describe the process.

Bountiful Baskets is a food co-op.  That means, all volunteer drive, no employees, and thus, no overhead.  Tanya and Sally (who run it) collect money from people, and then go buy produce.  That produce is split among those that contributed.  Doesn’t sound that amazing yet, does it?

Well, if I go to the store, carrots cost me $3 a bag.  But, if 10,000 people each contribute $16, that’s $160,000.  You show up to a produce distributor with $160,000 in your pocket, and you get a lot more buying power at lower prices.  So that’s basically it.  You pay $16.50 every other Tuesday (or every Tuesday if you’re really dedicated) and Sally and Tanya combine everyone’s money, and buy truck loads of produce.  On Saturday morning, those trucks head to per-determined meeting places, which are usually parks.  Volunteers arrive, and start to sort and distribute the produce.  From there it’s basic math.  If they t 160 bananas, and there are 20 people at the site, each basket gets 8 bananas.  If there are 300 apples, and 20 people, each basket gets 15 apples.  And so on.  Any remainders (meant both in math, and literally) go split between the volunteers.  Seems fair since they donated an hour to save me some money.

Actual basket contents from BB

Each basket is a bout a 50/50 mix of fruits and veggies (+/- 5%).  An average basket has about $35-50 worth of produce.  Yes, I’ve received up to $50 worth of produce by paying $16.50 for it.  Each basket has a fine assortment of average, and frequently used fruits and veggies (apples, oranges, pears, bananas, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, mushrooms, celery, etc).  Each week there is what I like to call the surprise, or curve ball item.  Kumquats, Persimmon, Guava, Blackberries, Pineapple, Brussels Sprouts.  One thing that makes you go, Hmmm…Never had this before.  Might have to look up a recipe.

Here’s the caveat.  You have no choice in what you get.  Sally and Tanya do all the shopping.  You shop up with a laundry basket, cooler, or re-usable grocery bags and haul it off.  There’s no choice, and no selection.  The draw back to that is, I hate celery.  I get celery a lot.  Other’s don’t care for certain items, that they get.  My mom’s complaint is that she had way to much lettuce after a month of baskets.  The bonus to that system is this.  You have no choice, and therefor need to make no decision.  It’s an easy flat rate system.  Also, you’ll try new things.  Would you ever buy Persimmon?  Probably not.  But did you know they make an amazing bread?  They do.  And we wouldn’t know without Bountiful Baskets.

Here’s another advantage.  We ALWAYS have fruits and veggies in the house.  The kids snack on apples and bananas, instead of Cheese-Its.  I always have a side item to serve with dinner, be it green beans, asparagus, potatoes, etc.  We are eating healthier, every day.  We have fresh fruit for breakfast and lunch, and veggies with dinner.

You could not go to the grocer and buy all this for $15.

For you home caners, this is the best deal going.  Not only do you have a steady supply of fresh produce coming in, but they also offer things in bulk.  It’s not every week…but they’ll offer cases of tomatoes, apples, peaches, cucumbers, citrus, and other stuff.  2 weeks ago I got 50# of cucumbers for an additional $17.50.  This week, I’m getting 20# of tomatoes for $9.50.  It’s an easy and convenient way to get produce for canning and preserving.

On a side note, they also sell bread, cookies, granola, and honey, although I haven’t bought that, as we bake our own bread and cookies.  They also have organic baskets every other week, but they cost more, and that’s not my thing (yet).
Long story short.  Pool your money, get better prices.  Get a ton of random, good quality, produce for $16.50.  Buy when you want, no obligation to continue.  We get it every 2 weeks.  My mom gets one a month.  Others I know get 2 baskets a week (with 7 kids at home).  It’s all up to you.  Their website “opens” on Tuesdays.  You can order between noon Tuesday, and 10pm Wednesday.  The produce is distributed Saturday morning between 0700-0900, depending on your site.  Please try it, at least once.  I think you’ll be hooked.

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