Home Gardens Recipes Uncategorized

Late June in the Garden

*Yes, I did mean late June… this mid-July rainy weekend is allowing me to get all caught up, and I couldn’t skip over the joys of the transition from leafy greens to other vegetables and fruit in the garden!*


Along with our bounty of lettuce, we’ve happily begun to harvest some sweet, crunchy, and spicy veggies to add some diversity to our garden meals.  Late June brings asparagus, strawberries, peas, kohlrabi, and garlic scapes to Vermont gardens, along with a continued bounty of edible flowers and tender herbs.


I love savoring the firsts: our first two pea pods – our first spear of asparagus – the first taste of a freshly sun ripened strawberry.

With a large garden, this quickly changes into harvest management.  Which evening is free to pickle all the garlic scapes?  We missed a day harvesting peas – remember to leave extra time tomorrow to harvest two days worth.  Did that kohlrabi double in size last night?

I never regret the constant magnetic pull these bounties have, drawing me outside into the garden and inside into the kitchen.


If you’re growing garlic, this time of year yields an abundance of beautiful garlic scapes.  My favorite way to use scapes is to ferment them.  I will admit that fermented garlic is an acquired taste.  The smell is probably what some people think of when they complain about the stinkyness of foods like kimchi.  However, when cut small and used as a garnish, pickled scapes add a wonderful earthy garlicy flavor to a dish and are a great way to enjoy your scapes throughout the year.


Naturally Fermented Garlic Scape Pickles:
– Pack as many scapes as you can into glass Mason jars.  I like to pack some using only vertically trimmed spears and some that allow the twisty shapes to wind around the inside of the glass.
– If you have whey from strained plain yogurt or brine from a previous batch of saurkraut or fermented veggie, add a splash to each jar.
– Add 1 scant teaspoon sea salt to each pint of veggies.
– Fill each jar the rest of the way with water and place lids on top without screwing them on (this allows gasses to escape and avoids making fizzy pickles while keeping out dust or flys).  Place jars on a plate or flat-bottomed dish on your counter (this keeps your counter clean in the event of an overflow during the fermentation process).
– Let jars sit at room temperature for at least a week.  Every day or two I screw on the lids tightly and tip the jars over a few times, coaxing out the air bubbles.
– When the color of the scapes has changed throughout each spear, they’re ready for a taste test.  If they’ve soured enough for your tastes, put into your fridge to slow the fermentation process.
– When you’d like to use, gather several scapes and cut straight across, making small rounds that add great garlic flavor when used as a garnish.



Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

Easy Tomato Soup Recipe


Did you can any tomatoes this summer or fall?  If so, these first cold days of November are the perfect time to start enjoying that sun ripened home grown tomato flavor as a classic easy comfort food: tomato soup.

Creamy tomato soup
Creamy tomato soup

Basic Tomato Soup (makes 4 entrée-sized bowls)
-Equipment: medium-to-large pot, immersion blender
-2 quarts canned tomatoes (from your garden, or from the store)
-1 onion, chopped (yellow or white type, not Vidalia or sweet)
-2-4 cloves of garlic, diced
-1 tablespoon fat (I love using bacon grease or butter here, but feel free to use whatever you prefer to fry in)
-splash of olive oil
-salt, pepper, and herbs to taste

1) Heat pot and add your frying oil/fat.  Once hot, add chopped onions.  Stir occasionally until transparent.  If they’re sticking, cover pot and lower heat.

2) Add garlic, stir, and let cook for a few minutes.  Once the garlic is soft, you’re ready for the next step.

3) Dump in your tomatoes, and bring to boil.  If you are adding dried green herbs like basil or oregano, add them in now.  Then turn down to simmer, and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes.

4) Turn off heat.  Now is the time to add your olive oil, salt, seasonings, and/or fresh green herbs.  Next, stick your immersion blender into the pot and purée.  Taste and adjust.

5) When you’re ready to eat, turn the burner back on until the soup is hot.  Enjoy!

Garnished with Arugula

Variations: There’s nothing quite like the simplicity of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olive oil.  It can be fun, however, to play around with this recipe – especially if it’s a regular menu item at your house.  We love the following variations:
-Make it Hot: add cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste
-Basil Lovers: add a container of pesto after cooking but before blending
-Cream of Tomato: Add 1/2 cup cream or half and half, or 1 cup whole milk after cooking but before blending
-Garnishes: beautify your bowls with a sprinkle of fresh chopped basil (watch out, it browns quickly), a dollop of pesto, chopped parsley, or chopped arugula
-Make it Moroccan: add 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ginger, cumin, and paprika when you add your tomatoes.  Adjust to taste.

Luckily, I was able to snap a picture of this spicy cream of tomato soup before it was all eaten up.  This stuff doesn't last long around our house!
Luckily, I was able to snap a picture of this spicy cream of tomato soup before it was all eaten up. This stuff doesn’t last long around our house!
Home Gardens Recipes Uncategorized

Preserving Hot Sauce

This year we added another product to our list of canned goods: Hot Sauce!

We did two versions – one cooked and canned and one naturally fermented.  Both used the same basic ingredients: equal parts of onions, carrots, tomatoes, and hot peppers (about 4 cups of each) and a smaller part garlic (one head).  Depending on the hotness of your peppers, you may want to adjust the proportions to achieve your desired heat.



JuicerWe started by putting all our veggies through our juicer.  If you don’t have one, you could blend or purée your product after it has cooked and softened.  If blending, you’ll want to decide whether or not to include whole hot peppers, or to remove the seeds.  If removing the seeds with your hands, I recommend wearing rubber gloves to keep the hot oils off your skin!

JarsCanning: We put our juice into a large pot and added 20% (by volume) white distilled vinegar and salt to taste.  After boiling for 20 minutes, we ladled the hot sauce into 1/2 cup Ball jars and put them into a hot water bath for an additional 10 minutes.  These will make great gifts this holiday season.


fermented-hot-sauceFermenting: I put 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 cup whey* into a quart ball jar.  I then filled the jar the rest of the way with our uncooked hot sauce juice.  I left the covered jar out on our counter for several days, stirring about twice a day and tasting occasionally.  After four days, the hot sauce developed  a nice sour flavor in addition to the hot, oniony, and garlicky flavors.  I then put the jar into the fridge for storage.  For an additional fermented hot sauce choice, I followed this recipe for a delicious salsa verde.

*To get whey, I strain plain yogurt (make sure yours has live cultures).  You can use a strainer or cheese cloth over a bowl to separate the solids from the whey.  After several hours, you’re left with whey (full of lactobacillus) and greek yogurt.  You can also use juice from a pervious naturally fermented pickle or sauerkraut jar as a way to ensure there are plenty of good bacteria in your fermenting hot sauce.

Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

Garlic Scape Recipes

garlic-scape-harvestGarlic scapes are delicious and versatile.  We use them raw and cooked in late June and early July when they spring from the tops of our garlic plants.  Here are a few suggesitons:

pickled-scapesPickled Garlic Scapes:  It might help to read through my “fermenting foods” post first if you want to try out natural fermentation for the first time.  Use 1 T. of sea salt per packed quart of veggies and fill with water.  Let sit, loosely covered, in a cool place and make sure all vegetables/scapes stay below the surface of the brine.  I love picked scapes!  Blended up, they could also made a great garlicky and sour addition to a spread or paste made later in the growing season.

scape-pestoGarlic Scape Pesto: Take 1.5 cups fresh scapes cut in one inch pieces,  1/3 cup of olive oil, and 1/4 cups toasted pine nuts.  Blend well in a blender or food processor. Stir in 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.  Spice up your dinner, use as a dip, or freeze in small jars for later use.

Garlic Scape Stir Fry: Simply chop up scapes into bite-sized pieces and stir fry with your other favorite veggies.  I suggest adding in the scapes last, because they lose their garlic flavor quickly.  They should only fry for a few minutes – just past the point when they turn bright green.  I froze a bag of chopped scapes for a fun addition to winter stirfries.

Here's the chopped bag or scapes and small containers pesto ready for the freezer!
Here’s the chopped bag of scapes and small containers pesto ready for the freezer!
Everyone loves garlic scapes! (photo by Vera Simon-Nobes)

Winter-Sweetened Kale


Despite freezes, thaws, feet of snow and drizzles of rain, our kale is still standing (sort of) strong in the garden.  Sweetened by the cold, winter-harvested kale is a green treat at this time of year!

Cooking with kale is much easier if you have a team of kid helpers!  They can use washed hands to rip up the kale leaves into little pieces.  This task keeps them perfectly busy as you mince garlic and get the frying pan hot.  Make sure your young helpers pause their play to hear the sizzle of tomato juice on the hot frying pan, smell the garlic as it fries, and observe the color of the kale leaves change as they cook.

Garlic Tomato Kale:
(student tested and approved)

-Chop or rip up as much kale as fits packed into your largest frying pan or wok. Try to make pieces no larger than 2 inches in any direction.
-Dice 4 cloves of garlic
-Brown garlic in 1 T. olive oil
-Add kale to frying pan, pour 1 can diced tomatoes with juice on top.
-Cover and let steam.
-Stir after a couple of minutes, so that all kale leaves turn bright green.
-Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Asian Kale Stir Fry:

-Dice your favorite stir fry veggies, or whatever veggies need to get used up from your refrigerator. I love mushrooms, peppers, carrots, and onions.  Mince 4 cloves garlic and 2 T. ginger.
-Chop or rip up one or two bunches of kale.
-Brown garlic, ginger, and onion in 2 T. olive oil.
-Add other hard veggies.  Once they start to stick, add 1/2 c. water and cover.  Cook until they begin to soften.
-Add kale leaves, add 1/4 c. cooking sherry, and steam until dark green.
-Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and/or hot sauce to taste.

Kids are great helpers when lots of kale needs to be chopped!
Kids are great helpers when lots of kale needs to be chopped!
Home Gardens Recipes

Dressing up Salads

At last!  We’re eating fruits and roots out of the garden – not just leaves and shoots. Though lettuce and asparagus are still in our weekly harvest mix, our salads are getting much more colorful and interesting as peas, carrots, kohlrabi, cucumbers, and summer squash mature in the garden.

Almost everyone who has eaten at our home in Vermont can remember the salad dressing – a garlicky dijon that is a meal time fixture all year round.  At this point, we pour in the ingredients and adjust to taste without using a recipe.  Due to popular demand, we finally took out the measuring spoons and wrote out a recipe to share.  The creamy dressing is great for green and grain salads.

To make one quart, combine:
-1/2 cup Grey Poupon (or any dijon mustard)
-1.5 cup plain yogurt
-1/4 cup cider vinegar.
-Mix above until homogenous.
-Grate in 4-6 cloves garlic.  Mix.
-Add 2 cups olive oil (For a milder flavor, pick a veggetable oil that is fresh, organic and cold pressed to avoid rancidity and genetic modification, processing, and preservative use in conventional options)
-Whisk or blend in a food processor until homogenous.
-Add salt or more of any of the ingredients above to taste.

We like to use on green salads, like the ones below; as a dip for carrot, cucumber or kohlrabi sticks; or to flavor a favorite combination of barley, asparagus, and hazelnuts!

Strawberry, sugar snap pea, and pea tendril spring salad

Cucumber, carrot, summer squash, arugula, and dill on lettuce
Home Gardens Recipes

How to use a bunch of cilantro

If you ever need to buy cilantro for a recipe, you know that one bunch is usually way more than you need.  Likewise, many people who planted cilantro in their gardens this spring are producing way more leaves than can be used to flavor burritos, salsa, or guacamole.  Either way, most of us have found ourselves stuck with a bunch of cilantro.  The answer at our house?  Green Sauce!

The concept is similar to pesto: blend or chop the herb finely, add garlic and olive oil, and make a spread that is delicious on crackers, fresh bread, or pasta.  My dad was first introduced to green sauce by his Italian sculpture friends who used way more olive oil and fewer total ingredients for a more pure cilantro flavor.  The recipe below is a bit lower in fat and adds in a spark of lemon to cut the cilantro flavor a bit:

Green Sauce
-1 cup finely chopped cilantro
-1 cup finely chopped parsley (substitute spinach if you’re trying to use all spring garden ingredients)
-1 small clove of garlic finely grated or minced (if you’re not a garlic lover, use raw garlic in moderation, then add more if you think you’d like to)
-3 T. cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
-2 T. plain yogurt (add more at the end if the final products is too fluffy and not spreadable)
-juice squeezed from 1/4 lemon
-salt to taste

My favorite way to eat green sauce is to take a fresh slice of baguette, spread it with a layer of mild white cheese like cream cheese or chèvre, and then spread green sauce on top.