Almost time to start planting potatoes

img_1796-2It’s almost time for that first planting of the season. I know I’m excited to get out and dig in my garden.

Potatoes are traditionally planted on St. Patrick’s Day, a date that I try to keep close to and seems to work.

I’ve tried red potatoes and yukon gold over the years. I’ve always had much better luck with red, getting as much as three times more red potatoes as yellow. I still like the Yukon Gold, so I plant a few, but I use most of my space for a couple of varieties of red potato, although I can’t really tell the difference in taste or quantity of the different ones.

Another thing I’ve found beneficial is to plant the potatoes in a raised bed. That makes it easier to mound the dirt up around them as they grow and also provides looser soil for growing. I have gotten a bigger harvest since I moved my potatoes to one of my raised beds.

If you’re like me, you can’t get too many potatoes. While you can freeze and dehydrate some, they store pretty well in a cool, dark place. I keep mine in a wooden box that has slats on the side so they get some air circulation. I had some from last year still in a box this winter. They had started sprouting, but it wasn’t a waste. I planted them in my greenhouse and they are now growing. Hopefully they produce a lot of potatoes.

With an unlimited supply of potatoes, at least for a while, there are a large number of things you can do with them.

I enjoy making homemade potato chips. I found a microwave dish once for cooking them and it works great. The benefit is you can season them however you want, such as simply with salt, or with some dried herbs or seasonings. You can get creative.

Another option is baked French fries; to do this just toss with olive oil and seasoning then bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, turning half way through.

Of course, you can mash them or bake them as well.

I also love to make  homemade potato soup.

There are so many ways to enjoy potatoes. What’s your favorite one?

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Homemade Potato Soup
6 large potatoes
5 cups chicken broth
3 T. butter
Parsley
1 cup milk
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 onion
1 tsp. garlic powder

Chop potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Chop onion and cook in olive oil until soft. Add broth, garlic powder, salt and peper. Add buttler then potatoes and parsley. Bring to boil, then simmer 20 minutes. Stir in milk and serve
Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Advertisements

It’s time to start getting those seeds planted

img_5799

It’s an exciting time of year – garden season continues to get closer and there are finally things to start planting in preparation.

It’s about time to start some seeds if you are planning to start your own, rather than purchase plants – although both methods have their benefits.

For the first time this year, I’m trying to start some of my Roma tomato plants from img_5800seed.Usually I just buy the small plants during some of the early sales in the season.
I planted my seeds last week and already have a couple of tiny sprouts showing. I hope by starting them from seed, I can replant them in some larger pots, then have some pretty good size tomato plants when it is time for them to go into the garden.

I’m also going to buy some plants like I usually do. It should be interesting to compare how much each produces.

Another seed you should have going by now is celery. It takes a long time to grow, so start it indoors. I usually try to start mine early in January, but it’s not too late to get it going. They will still have time to be transplanted outside and produce fresh celery all summer and fall.

img_5798On a side note, I’m hopeful to have some fresh salads soon from the lettuce that I started in my greenhouse. With the help of a little heat at night to keep the temps up, it is flourishing. If you don’t have a greenhouse, you could start a small pot of lettuce on your windowsill in a south-facing window. The seeds sprout in no time, then once the leaves are large enough to eat, start harvesting what you need for each meal and it will keep growing back.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Start preparing your garden for spring now

img_5768

With the arrival of seed catalogues on a regular basis and the warm weather we have had recently, gardening is becoming a priority for me again.

An important aspect to a successful garden is to properly prepare the soil for the upcoming year.

For those of you like me, who didn’t get compost added to the garden last fall before it got cold, there is still time to get this chore done. The recent warm weather has provided the perfect time to do a little work outdoors.

According to a column by Butler County Extension Agent Larry Crouse, winter can be a good time to add organic materials – although fall also is an excellent time – as long as the soil isn’t frozen. It also stated that working soil when it is wet destroys the soil structure and results in hard clods that are slow to break down. But also, if it is too dry, the soil may need watered so it is more easily tilled.img_4217-copy

Although there hasn’t been a lot of rain, we didn’t find the soil too dry to till.

After tilling up a couple new garden plots – I never seem to have enough room – I wanted to start preparing the soil in those plots as well as my current raised beds. I do have a compost bin at home and got several buckets of compost out of it this winter already, but it still isn’t enough. An economical option is to visit your local compost site. El Dorado has such a site, where residents can get free compost and mulch, all you have to do is load it yourself. Check your local communities to see if you have such a facility available.

I set off for the compost site Saturday with my husband in our truck. The only downside to this source of materials is things you don’t want such as rocks, larger pieces of wood and debris because of the Kansas wind can get mixed in. Most people don’t want those things in their garden soil, so I came up with a fairly easy way to filter that out. I created a two-foot square wood frame, then stapled on 1/2-inch wire screen. So far the easiest method I have found is to set a bucket in the truck bed, put the filter on top and then pour dirt on top. You can gently shake the tray or use a rake or your hands to move it around so the good stuff falls through, then get rid of what remains. As the bucket gets full dump it into the truck bed and continue. The benefit of doing this in the truck bed rather than on the ground is you don’t lose all of the compost that falls on the outside of the bucket.  It still takes some time and effort, but the end result is worth it. It also helps if you have two people: one to shovel and one to filter. You want enough to have a two-inch layer of compost.

I got one load this weekend, but still have some more to go before spring. Hopefully the weather holds out.

One other tip is it is good to get a soil test, which can be done by providing a soil sample to the Butler County Extension Office. This will tell you what you need to add to your soil to create the optimum growing environment. To learn more, visit http://www.butler.k-state.edu/horticulture/Soil%20Tests.html.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.

Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Warming up with a bowl of homemade chili

img_4214

Cold weather brings a craving for warm, tasty food. One favorite for many people is chili. There are a variety of chili recipes out there, but using home-grown vegetables and peppers adds a fresh taste you just don’t get elsewhere.

Chili also gives me the opportunity to use a lot of frozen foods I have saved from the summer.

There are several options for the homemade chili. One is made with a chili base.

Unfortunately, I didn’t can any of this last season, so I have run out. Instead, we created the following recipe.

You begin by preparing one pound of dry beans. First, sort and rinse, then boil the beans two minutes in 8 cups of water. Cover and let set one hour. Then drain and rinse the beans, return to pot with 6 cups of water and simmer 2 hours. You can use any variety of beans. I usually grow three or four different kinds, mixing some red beans and pinto beans.

When the beans have been simmering about an hour, you can start browning a pound of hamburger. Drain that, then add a bag of frozen onions (one cup), and chopped frozen peppers. This is where you can get as creative as you want.  My freezer is stocked with frozen poblano peppers, serano peppers, jalepenos, garden salsa peppers and more. Our traditional way of making it calls for two large poblano peppers and two jalapeno peppers, but do anything you want. Hungarian Wax peppers are another favorite I like to add. Cook the peppers and onions until softened.

Once the beans are done, drain off any excess liquid, then combine the beans; two pints of tomatoes, drained and chopped; the hamburger mixture; and 1 tsp. cumin.

Even with the peppers, this makes a pretty mild chili, so if you want a little more spice, add a half teaspoon of red chili flakes.

Let that all simmer for 1-2 hours, then serve with your favorite toppings.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Homemade Vegetable Soup

img_4009-copy

I’ve talked about several methods of preserving a variety of vegetables from your garden. My newest experiments have been with dehydrating and I’m continually looking for more to do with that.

Dehydrating offers a variety of benefits, including long-lasting storage and saving space over freezing the vegetables. It also makes combining various foods easier than once they are frozen or canned.

With the ease of grabbing a handful of carrots or green beans whenever they are needed, I wanted to do more than just add the ingredients to a recipe I was cooking. With a variety of vegetables dehydrated, the perfect use was to create a garden-fresh dehydrated soup mix.

This was a fun creation because there are so many options. I decided to start with a beef img_4029vegetable mix in a pint jar.

To fill the jar, I added a quarter cup each of carrots, green beans, potatoes, onions, corn, celery and sun-dried tomatoes. To complete the jar, add 1 tsp. garlic powder, five beef bullion cubes and 30 dried basil leaves.

There are several fun things about this recipe.

One is simply creating the mix. I like to layer mine in the jar, mixing up the colors. You also could mix everything together then fill the jar for a colorful mixture throughout.

Another fun thing is you can experiment with it as much as you would like. Don’t like corn? Add peas instead. Want more tomatoes? Put more in and reduce something else. img_4031

You also can adjust how much seasonings are in there. I started with three bullion cubes, which was good. But I wanted a richer beef flavor so I increased it to five. You also could try making it with chicken bullion for a different flavor.

Other herbs also are an option. Thyme or rosemary seem like they would be good substitutes for the basil. It’s all up to your own personal taste.

Another fun thing is this makes a unique and personalized gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend or relative. Tie on a bow and attach the cooking instructions, and you have a tasty present ready to give.

Uimg_4023ntil next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Making home-made peanut butter takes some effort

img_2367-1

Last winter when I was going through preserving withdrawal – it usually happens about December – I decided to try something new.

I have always loved peanut butter, and recently had purchased a hand grain mill, that just happened to come with a wheel to grind nuts.

With lots of nuts available around Christmas time, I had as many peanuts as I needed.

Wanting to start from scratch, I got peanuts still in the shell. It did take a long time to shell all of those peanuts, but it was a sense of accomplishment as I took off that last shell and was ready to get going. It was amazing that a huge sack of peanuts only made four cups, shelled.

I looked up a recipe online and started grinding the peanuts. This was definitely a workout, and I enlisted any help I could find, such as my husband as he was walking through the kitchen. By the time I was done, I had a large bowl of ground peanuts.

At the point you can add a little bit of canola oil to make it creamier if you want to, as well as sugar or honey. I added just a little bit of honey, stirred it in and stored the peanut butter in a bowl.

It was very tasty, but I overestimated how much to make by about two cups. The peanut butter has to be stored in the refrigerator and doesn’t keep as long as store-bought since it doesn’t have the preservatives. I enjoyed the peanut butter while I had it, but next time, I think I’ll try a recipe using a food processor I found that looks easier, and I’ll try making a smaller batch.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at julieclements75@gmail.com and some will be featured in upcoming columns.