Saturday, July 26, 2008

This Week's Harvest

This has been a rather good week for us in the garden. The tomatoes continue to ripen, and I was able to harvest two regular-sized tomatoes (no bird holes, thank you!) and lots and lots of cucumbers and green beans.

The apples still continue to grow on the tree, and I haven't harvested any additional ones because I don't have the time to devote to make delicious apple desserts. I did have a request to post the recipe for the apple pie, so when I find the time, I will reveal my culinary secrets to you. :-)

Below: Tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans

Below: Two views of more cucumber harvests.

The cucumbers are growing at an amazing pace. We harvest at least one every day. I think that I'll seriously must learn how to pickle soon. When work slows down and I have extra time, I will have to make some dill pickles with these delicious and crunchy cucumbers of mine! There are just way too many to eat all at once!

Hmm, I wonder how much longer the cucumber plant will produce. I'm hoping it won't stop until fall. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

The green beans are growing wonderfully too! The leaves on the plants have a few holes, but thankfully, the bugs haven't gotten to the beans yet. They are still green and perfect, no mark of nasty bugs!

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The evolution of the lone cantaloupe

Today, I will tell the tale of the lone cantaloupe, and how it grew in my garden. Sit back in your chairs, take a sip of coffee, and relax.

Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Nguyenland, a petite gardener with black, shoulder length hair saw a green seedling at the marketplace. Hmm, she thought. A fresh cantaloupe in the summer time would be a wonderful idea.

S0 with the help of the king, she went home and planted the poor seedling amongst her other vegetables. Two tomato plants, three eggplants, and one cabbage head. She planted the cantaloupe seedling in the middle of her bed.

When the day was over, and sweat overcame the young gardener, she overlooked her cantaloupe seedling and smiled. This will work out wonderfully, she mused.

As the days and weeks passed, the small seedling grew and expanded in the bed. One day, our young friend came out and found beautiful yellow flowers underneath the green foliage.

How exciting! She thought. A little babe is just around the corner!

The weeks continued to pass, and the insects and bugs came out of hiding. But that did not deter our gardener. She came out every day to water and to check her plants. The mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers took large chunks of her legs... And yet, she still watched her plant patiently, awaiting the big day.

Then one day in June, she came out and was shocked to find not one, but two baby cantaloupes had formed! Female flowers! She gasped!

Sadly, one of the baby 'lopes died in the coming weeks. But one remained strong. A fuzzy little one gave her hope of the future!

And this little cantaloupe grew... and grew. Despite the heat and drought, the little thing did not give up. It grew slowly at first... Then the fuzziness of its childhood started to fade away. The young gardener could not be happier to see her baby grow!

On one sad day, the young gardener had to say good-bye to her garden--temporarily. She headed to the beach for a week for fun, relaxation, and a tan. She slowly walked away from her cantaloupe--which she decided to name Freddie.

Good-bye, Freddie. I hope you grow big and strong,
she said.

A week passed, and when she returned, she saw that Freddie had grown larger than she had expected. And all of his fuzziness had disappeared. In its place, a thick white skin had appeared.

And only a short week later, Freddie grew and became recognizable as a small cantaloupe! Although he still has some growing to do, our young gardener is slowly anticipating the day when she can harvest Freddie and slice him open for a summer's day treat!

I hope you enjoyed the story of young Freddie and his beginnings. :-)

Now to end on a silly picture of Luka being funny!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Apples Everywhere... What to do.... What to do....

The apple trees are drooping with a zillion apples! Or maybe a couple hundred. We have two apple trees in the yard, and unfortunately in the front yard too! It's not the most aesthetically pleasing location, but these trees have made this place home. It's rather sad because the drooping limps are blocking half of the driveway. I bumped my head a few weeks ago trying to get out of my car! Not fun! But the apples are the biggest reward!

Below: Lots and lots of apples!

When we bought the house close to 10 years ago, the front yard was empty. So my parents took the family to Lowe's and we (my younger sister and I) got to pick out the trees to plant in the yard. We picked out two apple trees, one plum tree, and one pear tree. The variety for the apple trees is "golden delicious." However, they are more tart than they are sweet. They are wonderful baking apples, and I do enjoy eating them raw.

For 2-3 years after we planted the tree, the harvest was slow, but the tree was small. As it grew in size and as the years passed, the apples became more abundant and they grew larger in size. I think this years harvest beats the others. The apples are larger and a little bit sweeter. Last year's frost pretty much killed all of the fruit trees in our yard, so I'm quite excited about this year's crop!

Below: My latest harvest of apples

My sister has also been busy harvesting apples to give to her co-workers. As for me, I enjoy finding different ways to cook and use the apples in the kitchen. Yesterday, I baked a home-made apple pie for my writer's group. Homemade crust and home grown apples-- There's not a better combination.

Everyone loved the pie, and they even asked for the recipe. What better compliment can you get? I love baking pies, pastries, and cakes. I actually love cooking in general, so I was excited to hear that someone other than my close family and friends enjoys my cooking!

Below: Yummy homemade apple pie, and a slice of the pie!

In addition to baking apple pies, I had to find other ways to use my apples. I plan on making apple sauce, apple crisps, apple butter, and apple preserves this summer. I might not get to all of these, but it's fun to think about.

Below: Following my apple theme, here's what I had for lunch today.

As the main dish, I had lightly battered and fried tilapia, topped with baked apples (cooked in butter and agave nectar). For sides, I had sauteed spinach with caramelized garlic and a piece of apple pie. It was delicious!

Below: A closer look at my culinary creativity at work!

The meal was actually pretty good. I'm usually a creative cook. Although I sometimes follow recipes, most of the time I don't. I see what I have, and I create meals with my on-hand ingredients. Although it's not always successful, it never goes horrible awry. I really enjoy cooking. I think I would make a lovely Southern wife and housewife. LoL.

Anyway, what are some of your suggestions for my apples?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Film Project Over & Green Beans!

The film project is finally over, and I am exhausted! For those who are interested, basically the 48-hour film project challenges local filmmakers to write, shoot, edit, and produce a 7-8 minute short film within 48 hours (2 days). On Friday night, we are given a genre, a line of dialogue , and a character and occupation that we must use in the film. We have the rest of the weekend to put the thing together. But it's exhausting to try to do all of that in 48 hours. Yikes! But we made it. We drew the "Sports" genre, and the result was a hilariously funny short film. I played the Sports Agent. LoL. Can you just imagine!

The screening will be on Wednesday, July 30th at 9 p.m. at the Belcourt Theatre in Hillsboro Village. I'm in Group D. It should be fun. Tickets are $7.50 to see all the short films in Group D.

In the garden, the green beans are growing very nicely. I believe the variety that I'm growing is the bush type. As you've seen, I harvested a small number of beans last week (as posted Saturday), and there are more growing in its place.

I have to hold the branches up in order to see the healthy beans. I guess the weight of the green beans is too heavy for the plant, so many of its branches are lying on their side. I think this is okay because the beans seem to be producing regularly and are very healthy and delicious.

My question now is... After you pick the beans, do more flowers grow in its place? Or is this the end of the cycle? How many beans normally grow on one plant? Anyone know the answer?

We planted these from a packet of seeds. We have two rows of them. One row is growing in the shade, and the other is in full sun and is protected by the tall corn stalks. So far, each row is producing regularly and I haven't seen any scarring or bug damage on the plants. The shaded row seems to be producing quicker than the one in full shade, but I've harvested green beans from both locations.

The first harvest of green beans was small, but it made delicious Vietnamese green beans and egg stir-fry. (See Left photo).

I stir-fried the beans with scrambled eggs, onions, garlic, and fish sauce. I ate the dish over rice, and it was very good.

I can't recall any American-cuisine dishes that use eggs and green beans together.

What do you cook with your green beans?