Mache Bistro Salad with Beets & Walnuts

When mache is ready to pick in January it is a cause for celebration. This little plant is tender, with a smooth texture and has a long season to harvest. We like the tender young plants and use them as we thin. Later we pick the larger leaves until mid spring. The first salad we make is this traditional salad of mache, beets and lightly toasted walnuts. FullSizeRender

Fresh mache, 2 cups, rinsed
Beets, roasted and sliced (4)
Walnuts, lightly toasted (10)
1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Butter lettuce or radicchio
olive oil

Serves 4

Build your salad on a small platter or individual plates. Layer with lettuce, radicchio or other tender greens. Slip skins from beets before slicing. I like to slice my beets in half and then cut vertically but if you are using a cylindra beet slice in rounds. Roast beets or cook in a pressure cooker. See below:
Toast walnut halves in a small skillet set low or in a 375 degree oven for five minutes. Sprinkle with a little sugar when they are toasted. As the nuts cool break these halves not 2-3 pieces. Place mache leaves over your beets and then
sprinkle with nuts. I sometimes toss a few green onion slices or chives over the
top, some people like to add a few pieces of goat cheese or feta. Drizzle with a
touch  of olive oil and a bit of salt. It is a classic French salad and I urge you to try this, it’s like the first bite of spring.

Pressure cooking beets. Add a perforated steamer and enough water to just come to the edge. This is fast but inconsistent and I’ve needed to cook these beets anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on size and maturity. So far they come out like roasted beets with their juices retained and tender. I usually cook enough for another salad as cooked beets last several days when refrigerated.

 

 

 

August Hodgepodge Soup

It’s a New Brunswick/Nova Scotia tradition Hodgepodge Soupusing bits and pieces of freshly harvested garden vegetable most often pepared in August. Such simple ingredients prove shockingly good with potatoes, carrots, garden beans, corn (1/2 ear per person person) peas, either sugar pod, shelled or both. The pot has enough water to half cover veggies, added step by step so none are over cooked. At the end stir in a generous dollop of cream. Since it is a hodgepodge several other ingredients are often added but we were more than pleased with this simple dish and the broth was amazing. This is an approximation of what we were served at a restaurant in New Brunswick on the Canadian U.S. border.
Ingredients:
6 small potatoes – well scrubbed or peeled
6 medium size potatoes (we used our Rainbow blend of two orange, two yellow and two red but excluded purple because it is too heavily pigmented. Each carrot cut into three pieces.
Two large handfuls whole green and yellow beans
Corn, i/2 ear per person
1.5 cups peas-I used Oregon Giant Sugar Pod
1/2 cup cream —set aside
salt & pepper to taste
Directions:
Fill a Dutch oven or other pot wider that’s wider than deep with water about half way full. Bring to a boil and add 1:Potatoes- Cook potatoes for 7 minutes
2:Carrots each cut into 3 pieces cook an additional 7 minutes
3:Corn and Beans add and cook additional 5 minutes
4:Peas add and cook for about 3 minutes

Pour off water allowing 2 to 2.5 cup to remain and add cream, salt and pepper to taste. As with any soup recipe make it this way once and then don’t be afraid to experiment with more or fewer ingredients. This recipe fed 3 hungry adults.

Dandelion Bud Omelet

First Day of Spring. Here it was beautiful and sunny though once again rain was predicted. I was out pulling dandelions today and remembered how much we love a dandelion bud omelet. Here’s my recipe from Basic Herb cookery. They remind me of artichokes.

dandelion bud omelet½ cup dandelion buds

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

4 eggs, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a 9-12” non-stick skillet on medium high. Saute rinsed and drained dandelion buds in butter until softened. Pour beaten eggs over buds and sprinkle choves over the eggs. Use a spatula to gently lift eggs in pan and let uncooked eggsrun under cooked portion. When bottom is golden and eggs have set on the outer edges, fold in half. Remove from heat and let firm up for about 30 seconds before serving.Two or three tablespoons Swiss or freshly shredded Parmesan cheese adds to the flavor.

Today I used a full cup of young buds and 6 eggs for three people. Our daughter gave us truffle salt so sprinkled that on…delicious, and with a bit of parmesan quite a delicious dinner. Garnished with a few blossoms and substituted fresh green onions for chives.

When pulling the dandelions I was struck by how many slugs were hanging around though I wasn’t seeing damaged buds, they obviously had been eating petals.

Welcome Earth Day 2013

Today is Earth Day and a time we think about our beautiful earth and what we can do to help and maintain it.  Of course as gardeners and readers, the simple act of sowing seeds or planting is a benefit. Because I’m preparing a talk for our local museum about the gardening and seed production heritage of Western Oregon,  I’ve been giving some thought about “knowing our place”.  Know your place is usually a negative disciplinary phrase.  But let’s reassess this and do what we can to better know the place where we live and how it relates to the food production, beauty, preservation and history of our earth.  By knowing the tremendous value of seed crops here in the Willamette Valley I’m very afraid of canola seed being planted on or near fields where it can cross-pollinate or the dropped seeds will contaminate the soil for future crops. The better we know our place the more able we are to understand and speak out the occasional big issue that does appear. I will continue to express this concern along with hundreds of farmers and gardeners and hope it will make a difference. Know your place!   ~ Rose Marie
For suggestions on food gardening and Earth Day click on the image below and read this Huffington Post piece to which I happily contributed.
R-KITCHEN-GARDEN-HOW-TO

Sow Peas On Valentines Day

HEARTS4PeasPeas, flat, round, long and short, crisp or tender, these are one of the first vegetables to plant in spring. In many parts of the country Valentine’s Day is traditional for pea planting. I look around and it’s a pretty day this year with soil temperatures up to 40 degrees, suitable for pea planting. When I head home today the peas are going in the ground. Here are my favorites and why…what do you do with peas, eat them of course and toss polyspun row cover over the young sprouts if birds in your neighborhood think the young shoots are nesting material. The row cover also gives a temperature boost for faster growth. Plant seeds no deeper than 1”. I make a little furrow and cover with ½” of soil and once they’re up add more, so roots are protected from heat later in the season. I also use legume inoculant so there’s no need to need to add nitrogen since this organically approved product helps legume plants utilize atmospheric nitrogen for growth. All four varieties I’ve listed can be planted for spring and again in mid-July for a fall crop. These are all results of the Oregon State University Horticulture Dept. vegetable breeding program. Multiple disease resistant including enation virus and powdery mildew.

Cascadia Snap Pea: A tall bush type, more productive and sweeter than other bush snaps we’ve grown. Let tender pods fatten up for maximum flavor.

Oregon Sugar Pod II: The most widely grown Sugar Pod in the world. Perfect for Asian stir-fries and you’ve undoubtedly eaten this delicacy in many a Chinese restaurant.

Oregon Giant Sugar Pod: Pease are about 50% larger than OS Pod II and a touch sweeter. It’s a great home garden variety because it takes fewer for a meal and most home cooks like the larger size but little used commercially.

Oregon Trail Pea: This all-purpose shelling pea is twin podded and there’s nothing homier than shelling a mess of peas with a class of iced tea beside you.

We’ll share some pea recipes later in the season…but planting as early as possible is the essential first step. And, these all grow well in containers as Maggie and I discussed in McGee & Stuckey’s Bountiful Container.

Methley Plums – The Taste of Summer Food

This summer is the year of fruit. One crop of fruit goes banging into the next. My fingers are hopelessly purple after spending a weekend up to my elbows in Methley Plums Cherries, gooseberries, currants have come and gone and our previously most ungenerous plum has produced a bounty of fruit.

Sam Benowitz of Raintree Nursery in Washington, saw this early plum was forced into bloom for the Seattle Northwest Flower & Garden Show several years ago when NW Garden Writers Assoc. members and Pierce County WA Master Gardeners teamed up to construct a food garden promoting the GWA “Plant A Row For The Hungry” program. We received a gold medal and The People’s Choice Cup”. It was time for me to retire from designing show gardens.

When we dismantled the garden I purchased this plum tree from Sam and planted it in our home garden. While it has a lovely spring shower of blooms, in previous years the fruits have been small and sparse. This year we have a huge supply of medium sized Japanese plums. The fruits are a deep red, a delicious sweet tart flavor and a good size for eating out of hand. The pits are not freestone but can be cut in half and popped out with a paring knife. The deep colors must mean it’s full of anthocyanins and bioflavonoids.

With this much fruit, I’ve had ample opportunity to experiment on how what to do with pecks of plums. These are recipes which we can wing it with the abundance of summer, so nothing precise, be careful with hot peppers, the heat can build. I’m not giving you my recipe for jam failure but it happened. Eat your fill of these fresh plums. They’ll store for about two weeks in a refrigerator.

Fresh Plum Salsa, chopped up plums, jalapenos, cilantro, a colorful bell pepper, onion, a little garlic, lime juice and salt. If you want to use a processor do it with a light touch. I prefer the chopped texture.

Chipotle Plum Barbeque Sauce, 6 cups of pitted plums, 3 medium onions, t tablespoon chipotle chili powder & one tablespoon smoked paprika, or 2-3 chipotles in adobo sauce, 3 large cloves of garlic, minced, ½ cup cider vinegar sugar and salt to taste after cooking. Run these ingredients in a food processor or finely chop. Put in a heavy non-reactive pan and simmer until thickened. Give these an occasional stir and it’s good to be doing another kitchen task so you can make there is no scorching. Remove from heat, season with sugar and salt. When cool package some up in small containers and share.

Plum Purple Basil Pie, Use any good pie recipe, I prefer those heavy on the fruit. Check out a peach pie recipe and simply substitute plums. The purple basil brings in a nice spicy flavor without little green specks but any basil can be used. A touch of cinnamon can be added.

Plum Dessert Sauce three cups of halved or quartered plums, 1 cup red wine, 2 tablespoons lavender flavored a honey ( a gift that is too strong for toast but good in sauces and lemonade)…add more if you think best, ½ cup sugar, 4 crushed or freshly ground cardamom seeds and 1 teaspoon vanilla. A little cinnamon, a bay leaf, a few drops of almond flavoring or liquor are all possible additions. Prepare the plums while you bring other ingredients to a boil in a non-reactive pan, reduce liquid by about 1/3.  Add plums and gently cook for three minutes. If sauce seems too thin for your liking pour off some of the juices, cool slightly and combine with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Reheat until starch is cooked, it will be transparent. Excellent with pound cake, a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. Homemade pound cake, good ice cream or real whipped cream recommended.

If you have a good supply of plums give one of these recipe suggestions a try and don’t be hesitant to tweak to your taste. These should work with almost any plum variety. I see our crop from the Prunus Mume is maturing fast. Just rubbing one leaves a fragrance on my fingers but coming up with something besides salted ume’ plums may be a challenge but oh, to capture the fragrance when it’s not an eating plum.

Hop Shoots Picking & Preparing

Hop shoots are a gardeners’ treat in early spring. Here are photos of them growing by the entry arbor to our herb garden at Nichols Garden Nursery. I snapped off a small bundle of emerging shoots, selecting for short tender stems and tips. Much admired in Belgium and France, where they are known as Jets de Houblon. Mature hop vines are actually more productive of hop cones when some shoots are removed.
To prepare plunge your tender shoots into salted boiling water, cook for 2 minutes and then drain. The timing can vary a bit cook only until barely tender. While shoots drain, poach eggs in fresh water (to avoid discoloration) or gently fry. Reheat shoots in butter and sprinkle over freshly cooked eggs. Don’t miss dipping a few hop tips into egg yolks.
Where these shoots are abundant they are variously sauced with béchamel, used as an omelet filling, served as a vegetable and pickled. Pickling does sound like a lot of effort for an ephemera of springtime. I’d most surely be appreciative of another’s accomplishment.

Indigo Rose Tomato Salad

This is our favorite salad using Indigo Rose OP Tomato, our new introduction for 2012. We had it nearly every day last summer and eagerly look forward to enjoying it again. Other small salad tomatoes can also be used but to my mind none are as beautiful as Indigo Rose in this delicious combination of taste and color. The deep purple exterior is rich in anti-oxidant anthocyanins and the interior of these 2” fruits is a rich bright red. The flavor is bright, tart and pleasant.

It is important to mention, Indigo Rose, the world’s first high anthocyanin tomato is a result of traditional breeding and selection over many years and not a result of genetic engineering. Bred at Oregon State University by Dr. Jim Myers, it is the result of growing out the best selections over more than a decade selecting for performance, coloration, and flavor. it is open-pollinated.
We are pleased to introduce this fine and unusual selection in 2012. We start our tomatoes from April 1 to April 15th and transplant around Memorial Day weekend.

Ingredients:

10-12 Indigo Rose Tomatoes (weight about 1.5 to 2 lbs.
3 tablespoons diced sweet onion
1 tablespoon white balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped parsley
6 ounces feta cheese (not non fat)

Directions: Cut each tomato into quarters. Gently combine tomatoes, onion, vinegar, oil, salt and parsley. Place in bowl and sprinkle with coarsely crumbled feta cheese. This salad is also very good with one or two tablespoons of chopped basil. Serve, this can be easily doubled and serves 3 to 8 depending on whether this is a dinner salad, with bread, or simply salad.

Cilantro Dip or Green Sauce

We’ve been enjoying this all week and it is one of those recipe that varies not in a bad way but cilantro doesn’t always taste quite the same. Nevertheless, this began as a dip for carrots. Since then it’s been part of a salsa omelet, a dip for chips and added to burritos.

Ingredients:

1 large bunch fresh cilantro
2-3 cloves peeled garlic
5 green onions
1-3 jalapeno peppers, deseeded
1/4 cup lime juice (2-3 limes)
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Directions: all these ingredients will be chopped and placed in blender or food processor. Rinse cilantro and trim off stems, coarsely chop garlic, trim onions leaving 3-4″ green tips, cut peppers in half and remove seeds and pithy cavity lining. Place all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. You may wish to add peppers one by one since they vary in heat. Add a little less salt than you think necessary and allow mixture to sit in blender for 30 minutes. Add more jalapeno, salt as needed and even additional lime or lemon juice if you want additional tartness. Puree again and serve or store until needed. Our Purple Haze Hybrid carrots are shown on the plate with the Cilantro Dip. Cut the carrots on a sharp diagonal and they make great chips for dipping. These carrots are easy to grow with stunning delicious results. Cilantro can be sown every three weeks for a steady supply. Papaloquelite is a good summer substitute for cilantro which bolts in hot weather. Slices of Yacon should be delicious with this dip.

Oranges & Sweet Violets

Spring violets, Viola odorata, are edible flowers with a color and fragrance that compliments fresh naval oranges when both are at their peak. Peel or cut away the orange rind, leaving as little pith as possible. Cut into 1/3” inch slices. Allow one orange per person and place on individual serving dishes. Drizzle with 1/2 tsp. mild honey. Garnish with spring violets or candied violets. This light dessert is the perfect conclusion to a winter meal. A few drops of orange liquor can be sprinkled over the oranges.

Some gardeners dislike wild violets in their yards but we enjoy the fragrance and appeal of wild violets. Their scent seems to come and go because our scent receptors become exhausted and must have a few minutes to revive before we can again enjoy this definitive fragrance.

Talking about Herb Gardening @ awaytogardening.com

Join us atawaytogarden.com in an interview with  Margaret Roach at her blog/gardening magazine. Today Nichols Garden Nursery is featured. Keane is holding two fine specimens of Oregon Sweetmeat Squash Homestead. Notice the beautiful color and thick walls.  Grow it and you’ll also taste how sweet and tender it is. I am holding our very new Ruby-Gold Flint Corn and branches of true Mediterranean bay, Laurus nobilis, Rosemary Blue Gem, a Nichols introduction. Read her article, join the giveaway and learn a few herb gardening tips. Leave a comment on her blog and join the giveaway. Margaret is the former senior editor and Martha Stewart Living Magazine and author of the new and highly reviewed “and I shall find peace there” her latest book. Click the link to Margaret Roache’s article

http://awaytogarden.com/giveaway-rose-marie-nichols-mcgees-herb-qa#comments

Forcing Winter Branches Into Bloom

Every New Year I cut branches of shrubs and trees to force into early bloom. Think Spring! Now we have vases and jars of  Flowering Quince, Forsythia, Dogwood, Daphne, Hazelnut, and Willow.  A branch of Snow Berry adds a little substance to it all. When I brought in the branches the stems were gently scrubbed and recut before placing in water. The first few days it’s best to change the water daily. After three or four days if the buds are swelling I ease up. If buds are not swelling and branches are not using water your house may be too dry and a misting will help the buds open. Also cut off 1/2″ of stem to give them a fresh start. These are meant as simple directions for casual enjoyment of what’s in the garden at the beginning of a brand New Year. Place one variety per container since they bloom and leaf out on different schedules.  I’ll put up more photos when we have color. Place these flowering stems in a bright area but out of direct sun.

Pickled Elephant Garlic

Pickled Elephant Garlic A member of the leek family, Allium ampeloprasum like all garlic doesn’t produce viable seed. In spring mammoth scapes appear and can be harvested when flower buds form. For all types of garlic removing the flower buds directs the plant’s energy into bulb formation. These are a delicacy when sautéed. Come back for a recipe in late spring.

Pickling is a natural for these large mild cloves. So I offer you this recipe with the greatest  respect for those who develop pickling recipes. The flavors change and develop over the first six weeks and even longer and it is important to have it acidic enough to not cause botulism. The vinegar mixture needs only brought to a boil and then poured into the jar. Vinegar boiled in an open kettle for more than a few minutes will evaporate acetic acid reducing overall acidity.

Makes 2 pints

Ingredients
2 to 3 heads Elephant Garlic
4 cups white wine vinegar
¼ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
4 dried or fresh chili peppers

Directions: separate bulbs from garlic heads. Remove the skins and trim the root base. Cut bulbs lengthwise into three sections. In a saucepan put vinegar, spices, sugar and salt on to heat.

Put canner or stockpot on to boil with enough water to cover jars during processing. Put lids into hot water to soften while jars are prepared.

Slit peppers with a knife tip in 3-5 places.  Place pieces of garlic, a bay leaf and peppers into freshly washed rinsed jars. Dip a spoon into brine, scoop out spices and add to jars. Add hot brine mixture to jars leaving ½” headspace. Wipe edges with a clean cloth or paper towel. Cover with heated lids and gently tighten rings.

Place jars in simmering waterbath. Jars should be covered by no more than an inch of water. Bring water to a strong simmer and once bubbles begin rising to surface process for 12 minutes. Remove jars from kettle and cool. Because I’m intimidated by any thoughts of spoilage or botulism my jars go into a refrigerator, another good reason for the small batch approach. The lids will  be depressed as a sign of sealing. Your garlic should be fresh and is ready to eat in ten days but I prefer six weeks. I like to cut into sections when serving. A true garlic aficionado may want a third of a clove or more.

Planting The Gardener’s Fall/Winter Pantry

Helen, who does much of our photography planted  her fall/winter pantry in early September. It’s 20 feet long and covered in light polyspun row cover. She used 6″ boards. bed is 36″ wide but wanted to make it unattractive to cats. Her materials were sawed off 5/8″ deeply set and 10″ above the ground. wood dowels pounded into the ground and PVC pipe.

She was indignant that cats had been pawing through the bed as soon as she prepared the soil. Polyspun was initially effective until a cat or raccoon dive bombed it one night. Critter control that’s not cruel or lethal seems a constant issue for gardeners. Helen solved her problem by covering the polyspun with bird netting just to see if that would deter the cats and that has worked.

The beds stand 2′ high.

Lettuce 10 varieties

Chicken scratch mix, Italian parsley and single parsley, green wave mustard, five or six different radishes, water cress, mountain cress, and garden cress were all planted in early December.

Her bed is watered twice daily two twenty minute periods. Part of her lawn system.(now that we are in October the water has been off for several weeks)

Medium size ‘Garden Clips’ and used three on each span to keep everything in place

She has done all of this herself and this post will be followed up with pics of her current garden in a few days. Most areas of the US have what I call shoulder seasons when we can grow cool weather crops that actually taste better when grown in lower temperature. The cool temps encourage plants to generate more sugars which act as a natural anti freeze.

Sugar Meat Squash Muffins

Sugar Meat Squash Muffins
Some varieties capture our imagination and become ones we grow each year. Katy Stokes Sugar Meat is a solid,Sweet Meat type and has become a customer favorite. This 6-10# winter squash is versatile, nutritious and delicious.
One of our Albany customers brought in a batch of muffins with this delicious recipe.
Katy’s Sugar Meat Muffin Recipe

2 eggs
1 cup cooked Katy Stoke’s Sugar Meat Squash
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup milk
1 ½ cups sugar (adjust to taste) I use ¾ cup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt may reduce to ½ teaspoon
1 ¾ cups unbleached flour
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees:
Place eggs, oil, cooked, cooled squash and milk into a bowl and mix. Sift sugar, soda, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and flour. Mix until lightly moistened. Stir in walnuts. Fill muffin or cupcake pans 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes. Yields 12 regular muffins. Give these try these and we think you’ll find they become a standby.

Katy Stokes selected this variety from her annual Sweet Meat squash plantings. For more than ten years she saved the seed of her very best flavored and sweetest squash. Only these seeds were replanted. Over time this selection stabilized and now Katy Stoke’s Sugar Meat Squash represents a classic model of seed saving and selection. Squashes freely cross pollinate with the help of those busy bees in the garden. This variety was originally selected from a first spectacular squash “Cucurbita maxima” several years ago. A friend who was sharing some of the gardening space on her farm had planted various squash and it is possible this selection developed from an unexpected cross pollination. Now of course, our plants for seed are carefully protected from any possibility of future crosses and the field is checked for any plants that do not seem true to type. In my opinion, seed saving is an art and always requires the discerning eye and palette to maintain a great variety.

Black Friday

Visit the Nichols website www.NicholsGardenNursery.com you will discover all seed varieties containing the word black are discounted 50% until midnight Friday, November 26th.
Catalogs for 2011 are in the mail. Not on our list, please go to our catalog request form and ask us to send one to you. Check here and at the website for coming selections that made a seed crop too late to list.
Hope you have all had a great Thanksgiving. We had three generations gathered around our table, good food, good conversation, a trace of snow on the ground, we are moving to winter.
A few minutes ago there was a tapping at our back door, odd, it was a large raccoon. That, and the deer tracks up and down our snow covered street reminds us we are not alone in our city.

Walla Walla Onion Sandwiches

Sweet, juicy and mild, Walla Walla Sweet onions came from Corsica to this Eastern Washington valley in 1905. Today this large, delicately flavored heirloom is considered by many to be the world’s sweetest onion. We sow these seeds in August and use the thinnings all through spring. We spring plant onion starts. In June, bulbs mature and we enjoy them through the summer. Gardeners grow this celebrated onion from Southern Missouri to British Columbia, though only those grown in The Walla Walla Valley may be sold as the true onion. Our Nichols Garden Nursery seeds and onion starts come from a Walla Walla Family that has been growing these onions for many generations.
James Beard, a native Oregonian, pioneered the movement to use and celebrate local foods. He created this simple sophisticated canape’, ideal with summer drinks.
This sandwich has only five ingredients and is a snap to put together. The key is locating the right bread. It needs to be thinly sliced and firm. If you can find Pepperidge Farm thin white sandwich bread that works well. A loaf of brioche and some baguettes will be quite satisfactory. Avoid a standard slice of white sandwich bread, these are delicate tidbits.

Ingredients:
Thin sliced white bread cut into rounds with crusts removed. Rounds may range in size from 1″ to 3″. You will need two slices for each sandwich.
Unsalted butter at room temperature
Thinly sliced Walla Walla or other sweet mild onion. If you can successfully cut and remove a slice the diameter of your bread that works. If not, cut into quarters and make a small dainty pile on the bread.
Salt, sea or kosher
Mayonnaise…the real stuff is best
A pile of minced curly parsley,previously washed and removed from stems.
Preparation:
Lightly butter bread rounds, cover with onion, sprinkle with a touch of salt. Gently press on sandwich so pieces adhere. Cover the edges with a light coat of mayonnaise. Now roll the edges in parsley. You want a generous coating of parsley to get that herbal flavor balanced against the onion.
When I made these for our staff, Helen and I added a few nasturtiums for the photo. I came by a few minutes later to see only a few wilting nasturtiums remaining on the plate. Nasturtiums, I find are a good addition to these sandwiches when layered in with the onion but I wanted to give you the true James Beard onion sandwich.

Vietnamese Nasturtium Spring Rolls

Nasturtium blossoms and Vietnamese mint add a refreshing light touch to these rolls. The rice paper is nearly transparent and the nasturtiums backed by green lettuce are beautifully displayed. Vietnamese spring rolls are never fried and contain only the freshest ingredients. Try a few practice rolls and you’re ready to go. Perfect or not they are delicious. The recipe below has standard ingredients but the beauty of spring rolls is you can improvise. For a vegetarian roll substitute tofu and a few crunchy bean sprouts for the shrimp and replace fish sauce with soy sauce.
Marcie Wolf, our neighbor and friend, came up with the idea of using nasturtiums and took me through her process. Our photo demonstrates the prepped ingredients all in place for ease and efficiency. Use any leftovers for salad.

Ingredients for 12 rolls:

12 rice paper disks, 8.5” (banh trang)
12 perfect nasturtium flowers inspected for insects
Dark Green loose leaf lettuce torn into 5”-6” by 3” strips
Sweet red pepper cut into narrow strips
Cucumber cut into narrow strips
4 oz. fine rice vermicelli (maifun) soaked in hot water for 10 minutes.
Drain noodles, snip with scissors into 4” to 6” lengths, place
in dish with 2 teaspoons fish sauce and 1 tablespoon lime juice
1 cup Oregon bay shrimp or 24 medium cooked shrimp sliced in
half lengthwise.
2 carrots shredded or julienned
Fresh basil and mint chopped and combined
½ cup chopped roasted peanuts

Dipping Sauce to serve with spring rolls
½ cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
1 large clove garlic minced or pressed
1 Thai chili or jalapeno pepper minced
1 tablespoon peanut butter
Stir above ingredients together and serve in
bowl with a small ladle or tiny individual dishes.

Preparation:

Dip a single rice paper sheet into warm water for a few seconds until pliable and place on work surface. On lower third of rice paper place nasturtium flower face down. Trim backside so it lies flat. Cover with a piece of lettuce shiny side down. Place a pepper strip at the bottom of lettuce and a cucumber strip just above, these will anchor your ingredients making it easier to roll. Next add a few strands of vermicelli, shrimps, carrot, herbs and peanuts. Pull up bottom part of rice paper to cover filling, use pepper and cucumber to hold all in place, fold in sides and roll towards top and you have a wrapped spring roll. Tips: the paper becomes just a little elastic and with only a little practice you’ll gain a feel for this stage. You will want to play a little with exact placement of nasturtium and lettuce so the finished roll nicely displays these without any extra rice paper edge on top of them.
There are several steps but before long you’ll find it becomes quite easy. Don’t hesitate to adjust flavors if you find anything too hot, too salty or too acidic, Vietnamese Mint and Thai Basil are the most authentic herbs but don’t hesitate to use fresh spearmint and your favorite basil. Nasturtiums should not be sprayed.

If you have questions post a comment and I’ll reply.

Basil-Tomato Salsa

Salsa recipes are versatile and this is one that says Summer! Serve the “Basic Recipe” with chips or crackers.
The goat cheese log shown resting on a nest of wild arugula is summer fare. Make the full “Basic Recipe” and use half for this smokey paprika version. Add 1/4th tsp. Nichols triple smoked paprika and 1 tsp. olive oil and serve with goat cheese. Adding a spoonful of chopped capers to the “Basic Recipe” portion gives a lovely Tuscan quality. Pile onto toasted bread slices for bruschetta. These salsas are good with fish. If your palate wants more heat, acid or garlic adjust accordingly. You are the cook and summer abundance invites improvisation.

Basic Recipe
6 medium Roma Tomatoes (3 cups diced)
1 large mild onion (Walla Wallas if available)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4-6 Jalapeno peppers –deseeded
1 cup basil leaves, finely slivered and tightly packed
juice of 2 lemons or ¼ cup red wine vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste, a touch of sugar if needed

With a well sharpened knife trim and finely dice the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Deseeding peppers improves texture of the salsa and produces a milder flavor. The basil leaves need to have stems trimmed away before chopping. Adjust seasonings to your taste. If you prefer to use slicing tomatoes, chop, let sit for a few minutes, and drain off excess juices.
I’ve used wild arugula which holds up in summer heat better than our standard arugula. Both will be delicious, Spread your cracker or toast with goat cheese “Chevre”, add a few sprigs of arugula and top with salsa.

Gardeners tip: beginning July 1 soils in the continental US are warm enough to direct sow basil seeds. Sow seeds about 1/2 inch apart in a sunny spot, keep damp as seeds germinate and plants develop. Thin to allow 3-4″ between developed plants. Start harvesting when 4″ tall. This is always my main crop for pesto. All this clipping doesn’t make for beautiful plants but the flavor and production is great.

Gardening On The Edge 2010

Keane and I are still savoring the totally wonderful Saturday we spent in Newport. I was as unrealistic as ever when greeted by a gazillion, beautiful, well-grown plants and bought enough to keep us busy this holiday weekend. Forget barbeques, we’re just trying to plant and get the deck cleared.
One thing I love at these shows is seeing and talking with friends and customers. Mike Darcy of KXL 750 and “In the Garden” broadcast from the show. He generously invited me to talk for a bit and answer call in questions. Kym Pokorny of the Oregonian newspaper “Home & Garden” magazine, Ed Hume, Luci Hardiman and Jim Gilbert were all speakers and all are established plant experts. It’s a great little show and a fine place to spend a weekend in June. Hope to see you next year. Here Keane and I are with our friend Ed Hume, shown on the left, seedsman and fellow garden writer.
Kudos to Jim Myers who organizes this show and benefits Samaritan House, the only family shelter within three Oregon coastal counties. Samaritan House offers both emergency shelter and case management services. Serendipitously, this expo fosters community among Northwest gardeners and a great outlet for plant lust.

Oregon Coast Gardening Expo

Newport Garden Show June 26th, 2010
We’ve been exhibiting and occasionally speaking at this annual Newport show for several years. I always come home loaded with great plants, garden art, and pleasant memories. We’ll bring plants, seeds, Yacon plants, tools and are there to answer your questions
This is a benefit for Samaritan House Family Homeless Shelter in Newport where they serve an array of families and children in need, help them get on their feet and resituated. Here are the details.
The last big plant sale and show of the season happens at Oregon’s premiere coastal resort of Newport from 9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. On Saturday, June 26th The third annual Oregon Coast Gardening & Landscaping Expo features over fifty Northwest plant sellers offering a wide variety of great plants, trees and shrubs including the unusual and rare. Plus the extremely popular gardening and landscaping seminars return with top guest speakers including the legendary Ed Hume, Kym Pokorny of The Oregonian, famed landscape designer Lucy Hardiman, Frances Hopkins, founder & owner of Stepables ground covers and many more! The Lincoln County Master Gardeners again be operating their Master Gardener Help Center featuring soil testing and readily available to answer your questions. Lunch is available and will again feature Mo’s Famous Clam Chowder. The Garden Expo will again be held at Newport Intermediate School, 825 NE 7th Street in Newport. Admission is only $5.00 and includes the seminars! This will be an terrific time to visit the ocean beach and attend one of the top Northwest gardening shows of the season. Special Garden Expo hotel rates of $79.95 for traditional room and $89.95 for deluxe room are available at the Newport Shilo Inn Oceanfront. Call 541-265-7701 and ask for the Oregon Coast Garden Expo rate. For updated information visit our website at http://www.oregoncoastgardeningexpo.com.

YaYa Carrot & Spinach Beet

YaYa F1 Carrot is a Nantes type, delightfully crisp and sweet. The bright orange roots are so tempting I like to pull them fresh from the ground, and eat while  standing in the garden. Our last summer trial plantings were so popular we hardly had any left for cooking.

YaYa Carrot is a great example of modern selection and breeding. For such a sweet carrot it is unusually crack resistant. The texture has a perfect crunch that makes it a pleasure to eat. It draws admiration from all who may have forgotten how good a fresh carrot can be. It requires no complicated preparations with Vichy water and butter to coax forth flavor. Scrub and cut this carrot into sticks for enticing before meal snacks.

I’ve listed these two varieties together because they share top selling honors on our Nichols Garden Nursery website. One is a brand spanking new outstanding hybrid, the other, Spinach Beet, is an ancient green.

Spinach Beet is a variety we have fought to maintain in our seed collection. When there is a variety you love the best way to ensure it’s continuing existence is to grow it, eat it, share it, and talk about it. Heirloom seeds must be planted, eaten and enjoyed if the selection is going to endure.

Too tender to travel to markets it almost disappeared from the seed trade for several years. Spinach beet has a small taproot with large tender leaves and stems. It combines characteristics of both spinach and Swiss Chard with lots of tender leaves and excellent tolerance to heat and moderate cold. The planting I recently made will last through the summer and into early winter. It is marvelously productive and I recommend it for container growing since it can be recut so many times. The flavor is milder than spinach and not quite as earthy as chard.

Nichols Plant Day 2010

Every May, we at Nichols, have our annual Plant Day, the Saturday after Mother’s Day. May 15th is the date for 2010. This is when we bring out unusual plants, run a good sale, and get our gardens spiffed up for company. Shopping is always interesting, we’ll have a huge selection of tomatoes, peppers and other veggies and flowering annuals.

Of course a few herbal or fresh from the garden treats keep your strength up as you watch Jennifer Ewing show how to build a raised bed in only a few minutes. I’ll demonstrate planting in straw bales. An addition this year is a herb spiral garden that is under construction. This is a great way to fit a large collection of herbs into a small space.

I’ll do a short demo on how to sow carrots. We all love those fresh from the garden carrots but they take their time in becoming established. It’s important to keep them moist and I’ll share a few tips with you.
Hope you can join us. Our gardens and retail shop are open Monday through Saturday, closed Sundays.

Anniversaries-Let Us Celebrate

Nichols Garden Nursery is celebrating our 60th year of offering seeds and plants by mail for home gardeners across the country. It’s been a joyous ride as our family has introduced and developed scores of unique selections for home gardeners. We’ve just returned from the Portland Yard, Garden, & Patio Show and are inspired by the vitality of a gardening renaissance that includes children to great grandparents.

Today Keane and I learned our good friends, Pat and Becky Stone, publishers and authors, have announced the 20th anniversary of their own publication, GreenPrints “the weeders digest”. This delightful quarterly has published articles from an array of some of our finest garden writers. I find reading it contributes about equally to an understanding of gardening and humankind leaving me feeling a bit better about both. Congratulations to the GreenPrints Team!

Growing Rhubarb In Alaska

A customer wrote today asking if it is possible to grow rhubarb in Galena, Alaska. Galena is inland between Nome and Fairbanks and winter temperatures will drop to minus 50 F.
I think with care it can be done, though the low end for rhubarb is usually considered minus 40-minus 30 F. Here is my response to her.
Well there’s no better motivation for a gardener than a good challenge mixed with a measure of zonal denial. Rhubarb is considered hardy to -30 or -40 F. We lived in Northern Maine for a few years and saw temps go even lower though not for extended periods. Rhubarb was a great crop. You, I expect, have even colder temps and probably for longer periods. If you want to chance it, and if I were living in Galena, I’d give it a go in spite of the possibility of losing plants. Here is what I’d do. I’d dig up a nice bed for the crowns. The soil should be enriched with organic matter, leaves, manure etc. Set the crowns in this comfy bed and don’t harvest the first year. Fertilize early in the season with some form of seaweed because I think it builds a stronger hardier plant. Don’t fertilize after July 1 because you don’t want to force any late tender growth. Plant one crown in each of two large black plastic 20″ to 24″ nursery pots in an equally fertile mix. Fifty % of this mix should be commercial potting mix because of better drainage and lighter weight. Leave 4″- 5″ from plant to container soil line so you can mulch and to make watering easier. Place this out in nice sunny spot during the growing season.
Winter mulch with several inches of leaves after a couple hard frosts. Move the leaves out near your plants ahead of time so it’s an easy job when the weather turns. The two crowns growing in containers are your insurance policy. They should also be mulched, brought in to an unheated garage, an out building with a bit of wrap(burlap is great if you can find it). You want them kept steadily cold but not as cold as the outside temperatures. Once the weather begins to break move these outdoors and move leaves away from crowns. Once these start sending up shoots check your field planted crowns as they too will need to have mulch pulled aside.
You might consider low winter plastic tunnels and should do some research on the practicality of tunnels. The decision will be partly based on soil, permafrost conditions, and experience of other local gardeners. Our Garden Clips do an excellent job of holding heavy plastic to PVC pipe. Pipe is secured over a rebar stake.
The url below is about growing rhubarb in Alaska with informational links. The author has less harsh conditions than Galena but still interesting useful information.
http://akrhubarb.blogspot.com/
If you’ve made it this far…sorry about such a long post but it’s info for cold climate gardeners. Last summer I spoke to Anchorage Master Gardeners and came away wowed by the beauty of the place and how these gardeners enthusiastically overcome their challenges.