Category Archives: Recipes from the Garden

Have You Ever Grown a Fava Bean? Would You?

What the heck is a Fava Bean?  For the last several years I have added this delicious legume to my garden.  Not only is it great to add nitrogen to the soil, very cold hardy, but it is very nutritious as well.  Fava beans are one of the oldest plants under cultivation, and they were eaten in ancient Greece and Rome.  Fava beans are in the pea family, even though their name suggest they are a bean.  This is why they are cold hardy unlike other true beans.  They are popular in Mediterranean cuisine with a distinct creamy flavor.  You can eat them fresh or dry.  Dried they store well and can be added to soups or any bean dish.  Fresh, they can be added to salads and pasta dishes.  Fava beans are great steamed and served with olive oil, salt, and lemon.

Fava beans do not tolerate hot temperatures, therefore plant them as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring or in my case in USDA zone 8,  late winter, January to be exact.  Fava bean can be planted in heavy soil as long as there is good drainage and the soil has been amended with compost and a well-balanced fertilizer.  Fava beans will improve your soil, so it’s a good idea to plant them in less than perfect spots in the garden.  Soak the seeds a few hours before planting to help with germination.  Plant 1 1/2 – 2″ deep 6-9 inches apart.  I like to stake my fava beans with some old branches 2-3 ft tall stuck into the soil on either side of the plant.  Usually this is enough unless we have high winds, then a little hemp twine around the plants and stakes will do.  Fava beans are usually ready in 4-6 months to harvest.  You will be surprised how neat they look in the garden.  The beans grow on bushy plants with tapering leaves, yielding anywhere from 25 to 50 pods per plant. The pods resemble pea pods in shape, although they are much larger and lined with a pillowy white material that protects the seeds inside.  Give plenty of water throughout the growing season.  Pinch off the tops of the plants when the first pods have begun to form.  This aids pod formation and discourages blackfly.  Pick the pods when they have become swollen.  You can see a slight definition of each bean inside the pod.  Do not allow the pods to be too mature because they will become leathery and tough.  Continuous harvesting will extend the crop season.  Broad beans (another name for fava) are beast picked and used fresh.  Any extras can be frozen or dried.

Once your plants are tired, retire them back into the soil.  You may need to chop them up a bit, but you can just till them in or add them to your compost pile.  Whatever you choose, don’t toss them into the trash.  These guys are valuable!  The smaller the pieces the faster they will decompose.  Favas are commonly used as a cover crop. They are big nitrogen fixers.   Now why wouldn’t you grow these beauties? 

Try this:

Quinoa, Avocado and Fava Been Salad

1 cup quinoa, 1 lb shelled fresh or frozen fava beans, 2 med. lemons, 2 ripe avocado, 2 garlic cloves, 2 bunches of breakfast radishes halved lengthwise, 1 cup purple basil leaves chopped, 1 T ground cumin, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 tsp chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

Cook quinoa and rinse with cold water and leave to dry.  Toss fava beans into a pan of boiling water and boil for 30 seconds and immediately drain in colander and leave to dry, then press each bean with your fingers to remove the skins and discard these.  Take the lemons and use a small sharp knife to slice off the top and base.  Stand on long end and cut down the sides, following the curve to remove the skin and white pith.  Over a large mixing bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the individual segments into the bowl.  Squeeze the juice from the membrane into the bowl with the segments.  Peel and stone avocados.  Slice thinly, then add to the bowl and toss to cover in the lemon juice.  Once the quinoa is dry, transfer it to the bowl.  Add the fava beans, garlic, radishes, half the basil, cumin, olive oil, chili flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss gently and garnish with remaining basil.  Great Healthy Spring Recipe!

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Filed under Gardening, Heirlooms, Recipes from the Garden

Pressing Apples

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Apples are somewhat romantic to me.  From the blossoms in the spring, to the harvest in the fall.  We have 10 apple trees here on our little farm.  Some for cooking and some for fresh eating right off the tree.  Our trees are still in small production, but we cherish every last one.  About five years ago we purchased a fruit press for making apple cider.  Not only does it look neat on the porch, but it’s functional.   I read up on making great cider.  We cut up our apples into small pieces and put them in the press and ta-dah!  We had apple cider!  ?  We wish…. We cut up each apple into about 8-10 pieces, put into the press and pressed and pressed and pressed.  Drip, drip…  hum…  Out of a bushel of apple we ended up with not even a quart of hard-earned juice.   Since then we purchased a fruit crusher.  This made our job much easier.  We cut the apples into quarters for the smaller ones and eighths for the bigger apples.  We ran them through the crusher.  The crusher just simply mashes up the apples into a smaller, juicer, softer form.  Once crushed they go into the press.  Stems, seeds, skins and all.  When the apples have been through a crusher they produce so much more cider and the crank turns so much easier.  Once you see that liquid gold come out of the spout from the press, your work has become pleasure.  You can line your apple press with cheese cloth, but I don’t.  It does help hold in all the pulp better.  We get about 3 1/2 gallons to two bushel doing it this way.  Of course this will depend on the type of apples used and if we let them sweat or not. Once we have pressed all the apples, I  strain the cider and pour it into half-gallon Ball jars.  I freeze most of it so we will have apple cider all year.  Leave a space for expansion.  Fresh apple cider will only last about a week in the refrigerator so don’t forget to use it up.  Well, how could you?

What should you do with all that leftover mess?  The leftovers, skins, cores, seeds, stems and pulp is called “Pomace”.  Fern my cow and Ivy my goat are delighted to see this rare treat.  Stock relishes pomace, but if you have large amounts you shouldn’t feed it all to them at once because it can cause diarrhea.  It can be kept in a cool place for a day or just toss the rest into the compost pile and mix it in. 

Apple Types for Making Cider

 A sweet and tart mix of apples seem to always turn out the best tasting.  There are thousand of apple varieties and just to grab a mix will sometimes give you an overpowering taste.  It really seems to have some science to getting just the right blend.  I asked an old-time apple farmers and cider maker what his mix is and he so kindly shared his knowledge.  2 parts Winesap, 1 part Johnathan and 1 part Red delicious.  This is a great combo, but me being me, I always add a few different types of odd ball apples in the batch.  This year I added 6-8 apple of these varieties;  Pink Airlee, Banana and Fuji.  With just these few additions, our cider seemed to have a little more mellow flavor.   Always use mature, ripe, sound apples.  Do not use unripe or windfalls.  Immature apple make inferior cider and windfalls are loaded with undesirable bacteria which will contribute unpleasant off-flavored juice.  One trick I have learned to get the most out of your apples is to let them sit, or “sweat” for a week or so.  This will mellow and improve the flavor of the cider as well as increase the yield.  Make sure you clean your apple well and get organic if possible. 

Hot Cider, or also Known as Wassail

On cold nights I love make up a batch of hot sipping cider.  I love the taste from our homemade cider so much better than the store grade.  Besides, it’s so much better for you, but if you don’t make your own, look for cider and not the juice.  I never measure, so you don’t have to be exact with this and all of the spices are whole.  2 cinnamon sticks, 6 cloves, 2 star anise, 10 allspice,  1-2 T dried orange peel.   If you don’t have dried orange peel you can use clean fresh orange peels or even add fresh orange juice.  About a 1/2 cup should do it.  Put all the spices into a piece of 6×6″ cheese cloth, tie off and toss in 1/2 gallon of cider.  Add 2-3 T brown sugar or honey can be used, depending on your taste and simmer for about 10 minutes.  I don’t think I have ever timed it.  I just wait until it smells good!

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Filed under Fruits from the orchard, Life on the Farm, Preserving, Recipes from the Garden

Cooler Weather Approaching

Ahhh Fall!  What’s not to enjoy?  Isn’t this the best season of all?  I enjoy fall time as the leaves begin to turn, weather  becomes cool and pleasant, mornings are crisp and the fall rains start to moisten the ground.  Gardening chores are at a low roar. Casper the Cat enjoys when I start to slow down and spend more time writing my blogs, studying gardening books and planning next years garden as he settles in to add some assistance by either sleeping on the keyboard or in the middle of the my book.  The hummingbirds are gone except an Annas hummingbird that stays over winter here on our little farm.  The chicken egg production is almost up to 100 percent.  Fall crops are just starting to set and just a few weeks out for fresh new greens.  It’s time to harvest the sweet potato crop before it freezes.  Garlic, leeks and shallots will be planted this month.  Pretty pansies, snaps and chrysanthemums are blooming.   Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins…….  And the smell and sounds of fall!  Wouldn’t you agree?  This has to be the best time of year!

This is the time of year I love to cook and create foods that make you feel good inside.  Pumpkins are abundant during autumn and I love to decorate with them as well as cook with them.  Heirloom pumpkins are really just a pretty squash that taste great.  If you didn’t grow any this year check out your local farmers market and grab a dozen or so!  They are loaded with vitamins and minerals and they last for several months in cool temps.

Here is a simple and great side dish perfect for fall! 

Crusted Pumpkin Wedges

Ingredients: 1 1/2 lbs pumpkin, 1/2 freshly grated parmesan cheese, 2 T dried breadcrumbs, 6 T finely chopped fresh parsley, 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped thyme, grated zest of 2 large lemons, 2 large garlic cloves crushed, salt, white pepper, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 T chopped dill. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  

Cut pumpkin into 3/8 inch thick slices and lay them flat on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Mix together parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, half the lemon zest, garlic, and a small amount of salt and pepper.  Brush pumpkin with the olive oil and sprinkle with the crust mix making sure to cover all the pumpkin.  Pat the mix down to hold it in place.  Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes or until tender.  If crust darkens too much you can tent with foil.  Mix sour cream with the dill and some salt and pepper.  Serve pumpkin warm with a sprinkle of remaining lemon zest and a dollop of sour cream on the side.


Filed under Casper the Cat, Life on the Farm, Recipes from the Garden

Growing and Using Arugula

Arugula Greens in the garden

For years I have grown arugula in my garden, not for our consumption, but for the ease of growing it for market, the beauty in the garden and the beneficials insects it attracts when in bloom.  Not until recently I have learned to love the flavor and it’s adversity in the kitchen.  Arugula has a somewhat peppery taste with a “kick”.  I prefer to pick it when it is very young and tender.  The small leaves have much less of a bite then when they become more mature.  Once starts going to seed, I use the flowers to add a great peppery flavor to green salads or topped onto baked potatoes.  

Growing arugula is a breeze.  It likes cooler weather, so spring and fall crops are great for growing this straight forward green.   The small seeds can either be planted in a row or scattered across a small bed. If planted in a bed, dividing the bed into quarters might be considered if you want to plant successive crops that will give you a supply of fresh arugula well into summer, and perhaps beyond for cooler climates.  However you distribute the seeds, cover them with 1/4″ of fine soil and keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate, which usually will happen in a few days or about a week.  You will be surprised how fast they show themselves peeking out of the ground!  Once the arugula plants have reached a height of about an inch you can thin them out, spacing the seedlings 3′ to 4′ apart if you like. Some gardeners, including myself don’t bother to thin arugula, simply harvesting the young plants, and over time, thinning out the plants enough so that some seedlings will grow to their full size. If it is the very young leaves you want, growing arugula in pots or planters may work best for you. Arugula will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.  It does not keep long.  So pick only what you need.  I keep mine cut back to continue the new growth of new leaves.  Anything I don’t use right away I give to the chickens which love the treat of fresh greens from the garden. 

Growing Arugula for microgreens is another alternative which can be done indoors near a window all year-long.  Arugula is probably one of the easiest microgreens I have grown.  I use a small planting try (12×12), and fill it 3/4 full with a really good organic potting soil, Happy Frog is my favorite, moisten the soil, sprinkle arugula seeds over the soil rather thick,  then place a couple of moist paper towels right over the seeds.  Keep the paper towels moist, but not wet or mold will form.  You can use a spray bottle for this.  Once the seeds have germinated remove the paper towels.  Once your greens have grown to about one inch, it’s time to harvest.  A true microgreen is harvested when only the first two (cotyledon) leaves appear.  These little microgreens have such a great strong flavor and add an amazing zest when sprinkled on top of soups, salads or added to sandwiches.  Once you have cut back your arugula microgreens, they will not grow back.  You have cut their life line!  Dump the used soil into the compost and start fresh every time.  By the way…….You can grow any microgreen this way.

Super Arugula Recipe:  Green Couscous

Green Couscous Arugula Salad

Place 1 cup couscous in a large bowl and cover with 3/4 cup boiling water or vegetable stock, cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, fry 1 small onion or 1 large shallot in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until golden and completely soft.  Add 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of ground cumin.  Mix with couscous.  Make a herb paste by adding the following ingredients into a food processor. 1/3 cup chopped parsley, 1 cup chopped cilantro, 2 tbsp chopped dill, 2 tbsp chopped mint and 6 tbsp olive oil.  Process until smooth.  Mix into the couscous.  Now add 1/2 cup unsalted pistachios that have been toasted and chopped roughly, 3 green onions finely sliced, 1 jalapeno pepper finely diced, and 1 1/4 cup of arugula fresh from the garden that has been chopped into about 1 inch pieces.  Mix together.  You can add a little olive oil if the salad seems to dry.  You can add some feta cheese if you like.  Serve at room temperature.  Enjoy

Happy Frog Potting Soil

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