Saturday, February 28, 2015

Recipe: Beets That Don't Taste Like Dirt

Roasted, chilled beets with blue cheese.
Roasted, chilled beets with blue cheese.
Finally! Beets that don't taste like dirt. My kids say it all the time. Beets smell and taste like dirt.

Beets, although they are among the vegetables highest in carbs, are still incredibly healthy and a food you should consider eating on occasion.

But I get it. They taste like dirt.

Beets do have a rather earthy aroma and flavor. And some people are just not into eating dirt or anything that tastes like it. But there are ways to make beets delicious. Well, at least one way.

Here is my version of the best way to cook and eat beets. No added sugar, no salt, no pickling. And so delicious.

Chilled Beets with Blue Cheese Recipe

Balsamic vinegar
Crumbled blue cheese
Black pepper

1. Roast beets, covered or wrapped in foil, at 350 degrees until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Remove beets from the oven and peel.
3. Cut beets into half-inch thick slices. 
4. Place beet slices in a covered container and chill for 1 to 2 hours.
5. Drizzle beet slices with balsamic vinegar. Top with crumbled blue cheese or blue cheese dressing. Season with black pepper. 



Friday, February 27, 2015

Planting Tomatoes and Companion Plants

It's Tomato Time - Get your seeds now

Yes, I really am planting tomatoes in February. I already have about 20 in the ground, nice and cozy with plenty of mulch, and lots more to plant. This is part of my 2015 Tomato Strategy - get them in before I plant myself out of tomato growing space.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have had zero success with growing tomatoes the last few years. They will be growing fine and then, wham! Something happens and wipes them all out. The whammo usually occurs when the weather starts heating up and the plants have been in the gardens for months. Our biggest problem, besides the heat has been red spider mites. I hate them. 

I could use sprays and kill every living creature on the plants, but that is so counterproductive and completely against my philosophy. But there are still things I can try, like planting short season tomatoes, succession planting and companions. Planting lots of companions for my tomatoes will, fingers crossed, be effective. 

Here is the list of the companions I am planting for my tomatoes:

Garlic. My research has led me to believe that this may be the magic bullet to keep the tomatoes clear of spider mites. Again, fingers crossed. 

Basil. Also deters spider mites, aphids, white flies, and horn worms. They may also attract pollinators and improve tomato flavor.

Marigolds. Deters nematodes, slugs and tomato worms. 

Nasturtium. An edible flower (eat the leaves too) that deters white flies, aphids, squash bugs and beetles. Nasturtiums reseed every year in my garden and they are so pretty. They are also a good companion for tomatoes because they don't need much care or water. 

Parsley. This extremely healthy herb attracts hover wasps which feast on tomato worms. 

Chives and borage are also good companions for tomatoes, but I only have so much space. 

All Together Now

The best defense is a good offense. I am going on the offensive from the start this year. No waiting for the problems to appear, or lagging in the planting schedule. Every tomato plant is surrounded by a variety of companions. Garlic, for sure. I even put a tomato plant in the middle of a garlic stand I planted last fall. 

I started the seeds for the companions one to two weeks before the tomato seeds. I wanted to make sure there were plenty to go around, because I am planting just a few tomatoes. About 90, I'm hoping. And more through the growing season.

Here's to a successful season. Happy gardening,


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Friday, February 6, 2015

Casual Garden Planning and Planting

Wood Streets Gardens Planning and Planting the Gardens
Wood Streets Gardens Planning and Planting the Gardens

It is that time again. Time to plant the garden. The planting part is easy. It is the garden planning part that I always seem to mess up. This is pretty much how it goes every year: I go nuts planting all the early crops in February and March, and I never leave enough space for my tomatoes. I plan on setting out tomatoes earlier this year, as I am planting other things. So maybe I won't screw up so badly on the plan implementation part of the process.

Garden planning is not my favorite thing. I take a casual approach to the whole planning process. The way our gardens have evolved through the years, sketching it out would be nearly impossible. I find a suitable spot and plant something. There is a little more to it than that, but not much. I do make a list of what needs to go in, then develop a vision in my mind and make it happen. Usually, it works out, except for the tomato part.

I probably haven't been much help to anyone looking for information on how to plan a garden, If you need a solid plan, there are countless free garden planning apps, software and tools online that will help you grow the garden of your dreams. But, if you are more of a laid-back casual gardener then you'll probably do what I do and figure it out as you go along.

The beauty of our garden plan is the diversity. Large sections of mono-crops are non-existent. With all of our interplanting, succession planting and willful disregard of most traditional vegetable gardening rules, the gardens are always in a constant state of change. Nothing static or boring about it.  There are so many varieties of foods growing. Annuals are tucked in between perennials and under fruit trees. As plants finish in the garden they are replaced with something different and appropriate for the season.  Every season, every year it is different but it is always beautiful and productive. Our garden plan works for me.

What are your garden plans this year?

Happy gardening,


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