Tuesday, July 26, 2011

French Potato Salad With Guest Chef Kate Yoho

We are in the beginning stages of filming a series of Gardening episodes to help educate and inspire folks to grow food and herbs wherever they live. Our goal is to show simple and effective ways to make the most of your space. Everyone can grow something to feed themselves. I live in a suburb of Franklin, TN and I have about two acres. I have a large kitchen garden in the front yard where I grow vegetables, herbs, small fruits and flowers in raised beds.

This past week I invited Kate Yoho, local restaurateur and chef to my kitchen garden. Together Kate and I took inventory of my current produce and herbs, harvested as we went along then went to work in the kitchen to make an easy, healthy and delicious meal.

It didn’t take Kate long to come up with a French Potato Salad that would be a wonderful side dish that could become the main course with just a few additions.
The result was fabulous! Thanks Kate.

Oh yeah, here is the recipe…bon appetite!

French potato salad

1.5 lbs garden potatoes
1 T capers, chopped
1/3 c onions, chopped finely (I.e. Shallot, scallion, Vidalia)
2 T Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 c vinegar such as white wine, red wine, champagne
1 c good tasting olive oil
1 c seasonal herbs (I.e. Parsley, basil, oregano, tarragon, thyme, marjoram,
sage, Rosemary) chopped
2 t kosher salt
1 t fresh black pepper

1. Boil potatoes in liberally salted water, the water should taste like the sea,
for 15 to 20 minutes, until fork tender but not falling apart. If using russet
or baking potatoes, quarter them and leave the skins on. Peel them and chop into 1/2 inch sections after boiling. This keeps the water from penetrating the
potatoes too completely and helps them hold together while boiling. If using
thin-skinned potatoes such as new, red, fingerling, or Yukon gold potatoes do
not peel, simply quarter if larger or chop into 1 1/2 inch cubes and boil to
fork- tender. Drain potatoes and peel if necessary (see above).

2. In a large bowl, whisk together capers, onion, mustard, garlic, lemon juice,
and vinegar. Slowly stream in olive oil whisking constantly until dressing is
emulsified. Stir in herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add warm potatoes to the bowl with dressing and toss to coat all potato
pieces well. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. If the
acid-oil balance is too strong in one direction for your taste, add a touch more
oil or vinegar to suit your taste.

This potato salad is great for picnics and warm weather events, as it contains
no mayonnaise and is wonderful served either warm, cold, or at room temperature.

French Potato Salad is easily turned into a meal salad with the addition of just
a few ingredients.

To morph French Potato Salad into a Nicoise Salad suitable for brunch, lunch, or

Additional ingredients
1/2 lb fresh green beans
2 6 oz cans or 12 ounces fresh seared tuna
4 hard boiled eggs, quartered
Fresh tomatoes cut into wedges
12 oz fresh mixed greens
Fresh cracked black pepper

1. Prepare potatoes and dressing as above, but cook 1/2 lb green beans during
the last 4 minutes of cooking the potatoes and drain them all together. Toss all
with half of the dressing made for potato salad.

2. Toss two 6 oz cans of drained solid tuna fish or 12 ounces seared fresh tuna
with half of the remaining dressing (1/4 of the total amount of dressing).

3. Arrange salad greens on serving platter. Top with tuna fish, potatoes and
green beans, and garnish with tomato wedges and egg quarters. Place each on a distinct area of the greens for visual appeal in the presentation. Drizzle
remaining dressing over all and top with fresh cracked pepper if desired.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Breakfast at Emily's .....Daylily Garden

A breakfast in the garden starting at 6:30am, what a wonderful idea I thought to myself when I received the invitation. A perfect time of day for a gardener who is used to getting up early to beat the heat...especially this year in Middle Tennessee where it has been in the mid-90s for the past 19 1/2 days without a drop of rain (but who's counting).

Baked breakfast casseroles, baked garden soil and plants, and half baked gardeners (oh wait, that's just me) all commiserating and admiring the beauty of Emily's garden and appreciating all of her hard work so that friends could come and enjoy.

As I walked through the garden with Emily, she showed me her favorite daylilies and told stories of where they came from, the lilies heritage and the people who hybridized them. Emily's mom handed the love of daylilies down to her and she has poured that into the lives of her girls.

What fond memories children have when they spend time in the garden with parents and grandparents. I raised my children in a garden and now I am spending time with my grandchildren who can't wait to go to CiCi's garden each time they come to visit.

One can learn a lot of an experienced gardener like Emily Robertson, who so graciously shares her garden and her knowledge with anyone who wants to learn. Here are a few pointers about growing daylilies from Emily:

Plant daylilies in full sun for the best flower show.

Buy daylilies with a double fan (the green leaves) unless specified for best success rate. A triple fan is a good idea for Spider varieties.

Dead heading isn’t necessary but helps to keep a pure cultivar as daylilies can cross.

Daylilies bloom for one day only (hence the name day lily)

Daylilies make lovely cut flowers and buds will continue to bloom but will have to be dead-headed in the vase to keep the arrangement looking pretty.

If you are showing daylilies, live head the night before a show by pulling off blooms and leaving the buds which will open in the morning. This will keep old blooms from discoloring or oozing onto new blooms.

Join a daylily society or club to learn more and to trade lilies when they multiply.
Clubs also have sales where you can buy plants at reasonable prices while supporting the association.

Daylily flowers are edible, Emily thinks yellow and pale yellow are the sweetest flavor, stir-fry the buds, use the flowers in salads and on cakes.

Emily uses a time release fertilizer around daylilies in the spring.

When planting new daylily clumps, Emily adds compost or alfalfa pellets to the hole.

Monty’s Joy Juice is a wonderful natural foliar fertilizer and Emily’s favorite.

Ideally, dormant oil sprayed on daylily clumps once a month in January, February and March help to keep bug problems to a minimum.

Divide every five years; be careful not to plant to deep. Soil line should be where green meets roots.

Best time to divide or move daylilies is May thru the end of September. When one procrastinates and suddenly it is November (no one ever does that, right?) No problem, Emily lays a brick on the east and west side of the fan (leaves) to add heat and to keep the roots from heaving out of the ground during the winter. A trick she learned from her mother.

Alfalfa pellets will heat up in the hole during the winter which helps when you divide and plant later then you should.

If you divide or move in the heat of August cut some maple branches and make a tee pee over the plant. The leaves help the plant to transition in the heat and sun as they shrivel and dry up. Another trick Emily learned from her mom.

When temperatures remain above 90 degrees for a spell, daylilies will go dormant and don’t need excessive amounts of water. Water sprinklers can cause heat dormant lilies to rot.

A local Tennessee source for daylilies, Daylily Cove, Franklin, TN – Al Brewer, 615.790.3306

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'We The Vegetables" A Story by Guest Blogger, Chairmen George Ball of W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

This story begins earlier this year, just as the very first crocuses peeped from the frosted ground. One cold bright morning, George Ball, the Proprietor of W. Atlee Burpee, the gardening company, discovered a curious-looking green envelope in his mailbox. He noticed the pages gave off a distinct bouquet: verdant, earthy and curiously intoxicating. The letter read:

Salutations, Mister Ball,

Over the years you have proved yourself a steadfast friend of the vegetable community. So it is to you we turn to help broadcast our important new declaration to the community of humans.

Recently, we convened a Congress of Vegetables, with each of the four main families—the podded, the fruited, the leafy and the rooted—represented. We invited our powerful tuberous cousins, as well as our rare and exotic relatives, the stalks. As you can imagine, Mister Ball, we are a large and colorful clan, greatly varied in size, shape, flavor and texture.

You might observe, Mister Ball, we have been inspired by the American Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson was, after all, an avid cultivator of vegetables, as were many of his cosigners. They found inspiration in vegetables—and they likewise inspire us.

It is our duty and our privilege to once and for all declare our Bill Of Rights as vegetables. For too long we have maintained a dignified silence in the face of human neglect, abuse and outright insult bordering on the libelous.

For 10,000 years we have nourished ungrateful people with uncountable harvests of delectable, nutritious food. Humankind must now grant vegetables the respect, consideration and care we merit.

For far too long, humans have relegated us to the side dishes of life. In the theatre of cuisine, vegetables serve as supporting players with mere walk-on roles, rather than the culinary stars we surely are.

The Congress of Vegetables hereby claims our God-given rights, and demands that people at last respect us for not only our nutritional value, flavor and texture, but also our distinctive personalities and panoply of colors and shapes.

Our human friends must acknowledge the indispensible role vegetables have played in
their history and survival. Consider this: were it not for annual vegetables, people would not exist. Chew on that!

Humans have an unhappy propensity for viewing vegetables as mere things, commonplace objects on offer in the produce department.

In the pantheon of human culture, we make a poor showing indeed. Where are the monuments, museums, poems, novels, films and symphonies inspired by vegetables?

Your Proust wrote several long, elaborate novels inspired by the bite of a madeleine—a cookie. Imagine how much greater his opus would be if he had dined on an artfully prepared eggplant.

What if, in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” the Prince’s soliloquy was addressed to an artichoke? Why not? Is the fear the artichoke would eat up the scenery? Or that Hamlet would eat up the artichoke?

In your entertainments, humans anthropomorphize—imbue with human traits—every kind of thing or creature. In ancient fables and today’s cartoons, humans take on the guise of all manner of creature—woodpeckers, rabbits, rodents, cats, spiders, elephants, dogs, chipmunks and sponges—all, evidently, plausible vehicles for human expression.

The names of your venerated sports teams are inspired by giants, birds, brigands, snakes, metals, jungle creatures, warriors and meat-packers. In vain we look for the California Cauliflowers, Tucson Turnips or New York Yams. Cruelly, inexplicably, you refuse vegetables entrée to the garden of the human imagination.

Your diminution of vegetables diminishes all of us. So build temples to vegetables. Enshrine the role of vegetables in heroic legend. May a conqueror have the dignity to confess, “Were it not for vegetables, defeat would have been inevitable.”

In so-called industrial western societies, vegetables play an ever-smaller role in people’s diet. Adults and children consume a fraction of the vegetables their bodies demand—a development with significant health and economic consequences.

Food manufacturers and restaurant chains apply considerable expense and ingenuity convincing the public to eat un-nutritious fat-laden products unworthy of the designation “food.”

Can it be difficult to convince the public of the appeal of us vegetables—which benefit your waistline, improve your appearance, enhance your well-being and prolong your life?

In the widespread agonizing over America’s obesity crisis, rarely mentioned is the problem’s antidote: Eat More Vegetables.

In the endless bickering over health insurance, did a legislator stand up in Congress to wax eloquent on wax beans and their vegetable cousins? Not that we remember. Looking for highly affordable health insurance? Remember this: “V for Vegetables!”

Helping bring about vegetables’ wretched showing in the human imagination and daily diet is the way we are prepared.

In fact you humans don’t prepare vegetables, so much as abandon us to a merciless pot of boiling water or the brutality of the broiler. Our adieu is swift and unsentimental. Thanks to culinary creative destruction, you sacrifice our luscious color, sensuous texture, voluptuous flavor and spectrum of succulent sensations. Still worse, your children come to regard vegetables as flavorless, lifeless things.

Today, it is true; vegetables enjoy a new vogue in culinary circles. At chic and expensive restaurants, we are transitioning from side dishes to entrées created with nuance and artistry.

Perhaps, for once, vegetables are escaping the stigma of being a duty, the anti-charisma bestowed on all things “good for you.” For once—for once!—we are being regarded as sensual, pleasurable and worthy of temptation. “To the ramparts!”

On this first day of spring, these are the dreams—and the rights—of the undersigned: a vegetable patch in every home, schoolyard and community garden.


Chives, Garlic, Leeks, Onions, Scallions, Shallots, Water Chestnuts

Avocados, Chayote, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Melons, Okra, Olives, Peppers, Squash, Tomatoes, Tomatillos

Artichokes, Broccoli, Cauliflower

Arugula, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Chicory, Chinese cabbage, Collards, Cress, Dandelion nettles, Endive, Lamb's lettuce, Lettuce, Nasturtium, Purslane, Radicchio, Savoy, Sea kale, Sorrel, Spinach

Beans, Peas

Beets, Burdock, Carrots, Celeriac, Malanga, Parsnips, Radishes, Rutabaga, Salsify, Turnips

Asparagus, Bamboo, Cardoon, Celery, Chard, Fiddlehead, Fennel, Kohlrabi

Cassava, Crosne, Jerusalem artichoke, Jicama, Potato, Sweet potato, Taro, Yam
Labels: Guest Blogger

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Girls Get a New Coop

Coriander and Cilantro finally got some new digs. My husband and I, well okay, mostly him, built a new chicken coop or hen house. I can say hen because He says I can’t have any more roosters...but before you start feeling sad I will tell you that it is okay.

I love to hear a good rooster crow first thing in the morning and one of the evil twin hens actually crows. No kidding - I have recorded it and have witnesses that can attest to the validity of that statement. It is so cool, who knew? God is So Good!

The chicken coop is special to my husband because it didn’t cost him a dime; only his (and my) time and labor. At first he wanted to build something of an A-Frame style…probably because it is functional and easy. When he presented the idea I guess he figured out right away I wasn’t a fan. I explained that it kind of made sense but that style just didn’t have any ‘cute’ factor. If I have to look at it and visit it a couple of times a day forever (or as long as I have chickens) then I would like a something a little different.

He asked me then what I thought and of course I was prepared. I gave him my laundry list of wants.
1. A hinged window where I could see them and they could watch the world go by from their perch and I could open up for ventilation on hot summer evenings.
2. A hinged screen behind the window to keep the girls safe and could swing in for easy access to the coop for cleaning or whatever.
3. A nest box on the outside of the coop level with the floor (so baby birds couldn’t fall out) with a hinged roof for easy access to gather eggs.
4. Boards spaced about an inch apart for the floor with chicken wire stapled to the underside so predators couldn’t get in.
5. A planter on the front where I could put hens and chicks, Sempervivum tectorum…I wasn’t asking for a living roof after all.

He simply looked at our pile of recycled and on-hand materials and said we would have to go scouting for more stuff to make it happen. So, we went over to our friend Paul’s house and rummaged through his leftovers from various DIY projects and found all kinds of cool things we could use; tin, a window, rough sawn planks, and a couple of spindles the dog had chewed.

Another friend, Cindy cleaned out her garage and contributed some more wood scraps to our growing pile in the driveway. She also consulted on the mechanical aspects of making a comfortable home for the chicks while making it easier to clean up….like leaving a space between the floorboards so I could just hose out all the chicken by-product down the drain if you will.

Now we were ready to begin. Because I want to have 6 hens we knew it would have to be at least 12 sq feet. But that really didn’t matter because the piece of tin we absconded with was 3’ x 4’ and that was a perfect roof piece – lucky for me and the girls…exactly 12 sq feet. So that piece of tin was the beginning of our zero cost coop journey. My engineer husband sketched out a rough drawing on the back of a used envelope and we were off and running. It was a challenge at times to piece together a coop to my specifications without running out to the hardware store but my hubby made it happen in just a few short days.

The girl's new coop was ready and waiting. We were giddy with excitement partly because we wanted to see their reaction and mostly because they would no longer roost on our bathroom widow sill by the back kitchen door. It seems they took up residence there while I was in Switzerland last month…hmm, who thought that was a good idea? Chicken poop on the porch…Interestingly they chose the bathroom window sill don’t ya think? Chickens have a pea size brain but sometimes I think they must use a tad more than the 8% we do.

With great ceremony I swooped up both chickens and opened the window and pushed back the screen and let them in. Then I had the brainy idea I needed to put one on the perch with a view. As I put Cilantro on the perch, Coriander flew the coop right through my pretty window. No respect. No worries I knew where to find her shortly as it was getting late in the day. You guessed it perching on the window sill. I grabbed her and told her she was going to love her new home. I gently put her in and stood back to watch. Cilantro was singing in the nest box twirling straw, getting everything just right for her egg. Coriander went to pacing and whining; funny how they have such different personalities.

A few days later, our four year old grandson came for a visit. He couldn’t wait to see the evil twins in their new coop and look in the nesting box which was just the right size. He opened the roof and saw three perfect eggs and the look he gave me was priceless! We gathered them up and took them inside where BaBa made an omelet with ham, cheese and lots of veggies from the garden …Yum, yum nothing like fresh eggs first thing in the morning.

The Dirt on Soil

Spring is in the air...and a gardener’s thoughts turn to dirt, well soil actually as my ole college professor would remind us. “Dirt is what you get under your nails, here at UT we study soil”, he would say. We gardeners look for every opportunity to get our hands covered with the stuff. It is therapy for the soul; the aroma of fresh soil released into the air as we dig is exhilarating. It is also exercise, which one realizes later, after digging in the dirt for any length of time. I usually hurt in places I didn’t know I had muscles, but after a few digging sessions this too passes and I get back to the big strong farm girl that my husband married!

Soil talk need not be boring if you remember that it is the foundation to any garden. In fact soil is probably the most important ingredient to a successful, healthy gardening experience. It is worth the extra effort, patience, time and $$ to be sure it is right before planting anything. By starting with the proper soil, many problems like insect damage and plant diseases can be avoided, giving you a beautiful, lush, productive garden.

Composition of soil should be half solid material and half open or pore space with living organisms (that’s right, soil is alive!), decaying matter and minerals thrown in for good measure. Sound complicated? Not at all! Think like a plant, in order to be healthy the roots need to be able to penetrate the soil and go deep enough to find good moisture and take up needed nutrients. DeWayne Perry, UT extension agent/soil specialist of Williamson County tells me that soil is all about physical structure and content.

Now this is the fun part, become a soil sleuth... What is your soil made of? Is it loose, friable and rich in organic material? Does it drain well after a rain or do you notice that your plants wilt soon after a rain and require additional watering? Has your soil been compacted and is hard as a brick? Do you have a new home and realize the top layer of your soil has been removed and no one left a map to tell you where it went? Next, Find out if your soil is fertile and the pH level by taking a soil test. Your local Ag Extension Office can help you with this. It is simple and in a few days you will get a report that tells you the available levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, minerals and pH levels. This report also recommends amendments to add if needed.

Okay, you have analyzed your soil composition and found out you have perfect, wonderful rich, fluffy, drainable soil. No? Not to worry, we can’t always choose the perfect soil situation in which to garden but we can work with it to make it productive by amending. Armed with your type of soil knowledge and soil test you are ready to get to work. If you are reading this and wishing you could have done something before your garden was planted, it’s all right, test your soil and add amendments now. It will just be more time consuming to work around established plants, but they will love you for it.

Organic matter is the number one recommendation to help improve just about any soil condition. Compost would be my all around choice as it alive with microorganisms, provides nutrients (a natural fertilizer), drainage, texture to retain moisture and benefit root growth. Add a one to two inch layer and work in to your current soil. It also is great to use as mulch.

If you have the brick-type, compacted soil you may want to build raised beds and fill with compost or a soil product.

Be creative and be kind to your dirt, it will be the beginning of something great!

Here are two great places to buy compost in the Nashville, TN area:

The Compost Farm of Franklin. They sell compost in bags or bulk and will deliver. http://www.compostfarm.com/

Second Wind Farm Compost, Pick-up at the farm or get it delivered - call Larry Mochera at 615.943.8354 or email him at secondwindfarm@united.net

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Garden To Do List for March

Spring is bursting forth in the Upper South region with daffodil, crocus and hyacinth bulbs blooming. Helebores continue to show out while trees like the Redbud and Star Magnolia along with flowering shrubs help to welcome the re-birth of the garden, a beautiful time to work outside.

In the kitchen garden its time to plant cool season vegetables; sow seeds of beets, carrots, peas, kale, swiss chard, mustard, salad greens, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, parley(soak seeds overnight), dill, cilantro and nasturtium directly into garden. Plant seed potatoes, onion sets, scallions, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.

March is a good time to plant asparagus crowns, blueberry, strawberries, grapes and horseradish – all available at your local nurseries and TSC stores.

Start seeds of annual flowers, herbs and warm season vegetables like tomatoes and peppers indoors in a sunny window or in the greenhouse.

Dig and divide perennials and add compost to flower beds and borders.

Boxwoods respond well to pruning in March, be sure to reach in and open up areas for sun and air circulation.