Veggies for Breakfast

Zepher squash blossomsMy garden is thriving and has already started producing squash. Many folks don’t like summer squash, but I do and have learned, over the years, to use it in various ways. This spring I planted two kinds of squash, Zephyr, which I have planted in the past and Papaya Pear which is advertised as fast growing, high yielding plant that bears small, rounded yellow fruits. So far the Papaya is exactly as advertised. It’s also very tasty.

DSCN4168On the mornings I pick squash, which right now is about every other day or so,  I use it in a veggie scramble. It’s a great way to incorporate fresh veggies into your morning meal.  This mornings combination included; chopped sweet onions, sliced crimini mushrooms, grated summer squash, cubed Halvarti cheese, and two eggs. I topped the finished scramble with chopped garlic chives and crumbled sage leaves that had been sauteed in butter and olive oil until crisp. The best thing about a scramble is you use what you have on hand. The only constant is the eggs.  If you’ve never considered using fresh veggies in a scramble for breakfast you should give it a try. It’s a very yummy way to start the day.

The squash, garlic chives and sage came from my garden. The mushrooms, onions, and eggs came from my local Farmers’ Market.

What a difference a month makes.

Koralik Russian Heirloom Cherry tomato

Well it’s warming up here in the Central Valley and the garden is growing quite nicely so thought I’d give you an update. Tomatoes are ripening and I have enjoyed several of the little jewels as I wander through the garden early in the morning. My favorite time in the garden is around 6 or 6:30am. It’s perfect then, not too hot or cold and it’s quiet with only the songs of the birds to break the stillness.

The first fruit from the Ichiban Japanese eggplant is ready to pick, which I’ll do in the morning and the Astia zucchini has been producing just fast enough that I don’t have to eat one a day. They are nice little (I pick em small) squash and are a really good dipper for the edamame hummus that I have been buying at Trader Joe’s. I haven’t tried any cooked yet. They taste too yummy raw.

 Here’s the difference a month can make. On the left is how they looked on May 9 and on the right June 10.

Here’s a look at the rest of my little plot.

On the left is my bean tepee which is growing green, yellow and purple pole beans, the squash is a zucchini called Zephyr. I’ve grown this one for a couple of years and really like it. Two thirds of it is yellow and the blossom end is light green. Quite pretty. If you look closely you can see one just to the right of the chives.  Squished just past the squash are Persian Baby cucumbers (Green Fingers), an Ambrosia melon and a Romanian Sweet Pepper, that isn’t really taking off like everything else. Think it needs more heat, which is forecast for this week. The little green berry basket is protecting some parsley seedlings from the snails. Herbs are thyme by the beans, chives by the squash and tarragon by the cukes and melon. Tarragon is supposed to be a good companion plant for just about everything so we’ll see how happy the melon is when I taste it later this summer. There are already several 1″ melons growing so that’s a good sign of things to come. The beans have only recently started blooming and I’m looking forward to seeing some sets in the next week or so. The other plants in the foreground are; Sweet Alyssum, Snow in Summer and Santa Barbara Daisy, which was recently clipped to encourage a second bloom and also give the melon and cukes room to spread. Later in the season the squash will flow out over the Snow in Summer which it did last year. That arrangement didn’t seem to hurt either plant.

The beans, cucumbers, container zucchini and parsley were all grown from seed from Renee’s Garden, local seed company. The other plants were from starts I picked up at various local Farmers Markets. The size of the plot is 4′ x 10′ and this is it’s second season as a veggie garden. Last year I had beans, squash peppers, melon and cukes too but this year I rotated the positions of the plants putting the squash where. A mini crop rotation if you please. I also added organic manure before the rains last winter and let it soak into the ground not mixing it into the soil until this spring. Think I’ll try to plant a cover crop of legumes or clover this fall and see what that’s like. Must be why I love gardening so much, there’s always something to learn and it’s always an adventure.

How’s your  garden doin?

Salmon With Tarragon Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes

I really love French tarragon and have it growing in my garden in several places. I do this not to provide abundance, which I certainly have, but because tarragon is a good companion plant.  Tarragon has a scent and taste disliked by many garden pests making it a natural pesticide. I have it planted amongst the veggies, not just with other herbs; I have some in the flowerbeds too. Just like some human companions work better together than others, you  kinda have to learn which ones work in the situations  you are thinking about. There is a good site with compatibility information and more about organic gardening  here.

You don’t need a large yard to have fresh herbs, they do well in pots on a patio, deck or terrace and you can companion plant them that way too. I also love the way the textures and colors of their foliage looks amongst my flowers. My in ground gardening area is really pretty small so I also garden in pots on my patio. This year I created a space about 4’ x 10’ in the sunniest part of my yard. I dug out the ground cover that was planted there and  planted green beans, carrots, Persian cucumbers, bell pepper, summer squash, an heirloom melon, and various herbs, including chives, thyme and basil and even some zinnias. I expect that the squash and the melon will overflow into the adjacent flowerbeds later in the season. I also have pots on my patio planted with a Japanese eggplant and cherry tomato, along with more herbs such as parsley, sage and rosemary and more flowers (some of which are edible). The garden and pots are all organic with insects being controlled by birds, a few lizards and beneficial insects. Even if I do have to share with the pests sometimes, there always seems to be plenty left for me (the insects take pretty small bites). A garden is always an adventure, different every year.  Maybe that’s the reason I enjoy gardening so much.

Tarragon and chicken are good companions but tarragon sauce and fresh wild caught salmon make excellent companions. This is one of my favorite ways to use fresh tarragon. I can’t think of a more delicious meal on one of these hot summer evenings.

I have found it’s a good idea to  steam the potatoes and make the sauce ahead of time. That way all I need to do at dinner is pour a nice glass of wine,  light the BBQ and grill the salmon and make a salad. To serve, spoon sauce onto 6 plates and arrange some potatoes in a circle, overlapping slightly, on top of sauce. Arrange grilled salmon on top. Garnish with fresh tarragon, gather your family and enjoy.

Tarragon Sauce

(for use with grilled salmon or as a dressing on grilled chicken sandwiches)

2 large bunches fresh tarragon (about 1 ounce total)

1 large bunch fresh chives (about 2/3 ounce)

1 large shallot

3/4 cup fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves

1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Pick enough tarragon leaves to measure 1/2 cup (do not pack). Chop enough chives to measure 1/3 cup. Coarsely chop shallot. In a food processor puree tarragon, chives, and shallot with remaining sauce ingredients until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Sauce may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring sauce to cool room temperature before serving.

Steamed Fingerling Potatoes

Cut 1/12 pounds of fingerling or other new potatoes into 1/8” slices and steam over simmering water until just tender. 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.