Category Archives: Gardening

Eat Your Garden Veggies

Garden season is here again and that means veggies.

One of the good things, yet challenges with gardening is the amount of fresh veggies that seemed to all come in at once.

I have been thinking about this dilemma ever since I joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) and I found myself with a random section of veggies that I had to figure out what to do with.

I needed a way to get a variety of veggies into my meals before everything went bag (and to make room in the frig for the next CSA BOX)

Out of this came what I call: 

Gardeners Essential Veggie Recipes/Techniques.

I felt all gardens needed to know them to best use their veggies. The list is not complete, but here is a start.

Recipe will follow in later posts.

Cole Slaw

Veggies: (Cabbage, carrot, radish, onion, scallion, beets, turnip, apple etc…)

Cole Slaw is not just green cabbage and mayo. In fact, you don’t need to use mayo at all. I prefer an Asian slaw made with a soy vinaigrette. The great thing about a slaw is that it will keep for a few days and you can use a food processor to prep the veggies.


Veggies: Root veggies especially potato, squashes, green beans, peas, carrots, cauliflower, onion, peppers, broccoli, spinach and leafy greens, mushrooms

There are a number of types of curry like Indian and Thai. Serve over rice, with meat, seafood or in a soup


Veggies: Tomato, onion, pesto herbs, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, spinach, etc…

Pizza is one of those great way to sneak veggies into a meal for kids


Veggies: Spinach, dark leafy greens, broccoli (kale, collards, mustard greens, beet greens, chard), onion, tomato, root veggies, peppers, corn etc..

Quiche is a two-fer because it also allows you to use up all of those eggs on a CSA or if you have chickens. They also freeze well. They are a great way to use up all of those dark leafy greens you have especially late in the season when your kale is on the tougher side.

Roasted root vegetables

Veggies: Potatoes, Onion, garlic, carrot, celery root, sweet potato, radish, turnip, squashes, parsnip, parsley root, beets, rutabaga, pumpkin, corn

Roasted root veggies make great leftovers, so make a big batch. They can be a huge mix of veggies. I rarely use just one veggie anymore. This is my go to when the veggies start pouring in. And it works with a ton of meals like chicken, steak, fish, tofu, sausage etc.

Stir Fry

Veggies: broccoli. carrot, celery, peppers, onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, cauliflower, cabbages, eggplant etc..

Stir fry is similar to curries. It is served over rice or noodles. A huge number of veggies can work in one dish. The trick is timing when you put in the veggies, so they are done at the same time.

It can be all veggie or served with beef, fish, chicken or tofu and top with nuts and seeds for a more satisfying vegan meal.

Salad Dressing

Veggies: Fresh Raw veggies, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, in slaw, etc…

Lets face it. Most of our fresh veggies are going to be washed, cut and eaten raw, so having a list of some basic salad dressing and stocking the frig is an order of the season. A basic vinaigrette of good olive oil, vinegar (or citrus) salt, pepper, red pepper flake and fresh chopped herbs is my go to.

Mashed Veggies

Veggies: Root veggies

Mashed veggies are an alternative to roasting. The veggies are boiled until tender and mashed. You can selected a combination of veggies or just one. Add butter, salt and pepper and a touch of maple and honey and you are good to go.

Pot Pie


Oyster Mushroom Log Update

2nd year with full harvest

I took a mushroom workshop about this time 2 years ago where I learned about making mushroom logs. I purchased this log (shown above) that I made and I have been eagerly watching its progress.

The mushroom are a little past when I would have like to have harvested them, but they look great. I count nine large mushrooms growing for the log.

If only I had 100 more logs growing, like I hoped to have started this year, but I could not find logs anywhere, despite a major search.

Oyster Mushroom Michigan 2011 growing from a long

Related post

Winecap Mushroom Update

Ann Arbor FoodOK for weeks I have been walking out to my pile of winecap mushroom spore inoculated  oak wood chip in the hopes of seeing a large flush of burgundy color mushrooms.

Winecaps are pretty fickle because you never know when they are going to fruit. Other mushrooms are more consistent. It is because of the random natural of winecaps that they are not widely cultivated commercially.

I have talked to people who say that it can take 1-2 years for a wood chip pile to colonize and begin fruiting mushrooms. I started the pile in October with the plan to have mushrooms ready for sale at the Westiside Farmers Market before the season ends in late September.

Well it looks like there is a chance of a harvest. I discovered this little (partly eaten) winecap mushroom in my wood chip pile.

I take this to mean that there can be more to come this season.

Back Yard Bats

Common Michigan Brown Bat

I found a little bat inside my outdoor sink. He/she was a cute little brown bat. He seemed OK. I thought I it was sleeping because I believe bats are nocturnal, so I put a dish of water in there and I figure he would fly out when he wanted too.

He was in there the next day, so I called a local bat expert for help. She said that he was probably stuck in there.

The thing about bats is that they cannot take off from the ground like birds. Bats need a little bit of height to start their flight. My high walled sink had trapped him in there.

Bats are good climbers and will climb up trees, caves walls. There need for a little height for take off is why we see them hanging on rafters, under bridges, trees, caves etc…

So I ended up putting the cute little bat in a shoe box and setting him next to a tree. He quickly hung onto the tree, and climbed up a little. He then jumped off and flew away.

I wore gloves to prevent being bit. He was not happy about it and he made the cutest little high pitched sound.

Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind.

What should you do if you have bats in your house?

For starters, remember that bats are our friends.

Bats eat insects that are harmful to crops like moths and they are major mosquito eaters. A bat can eat over a 1000 mosquitos in an hour, which can put your bug zapper to shame.

Bats turn those insect pests into garden gold called guano, a prized fertilizer for gardeners.

If you do have bats in your house the key is exclusion techniques, not poisonous extermination. Exclusion is a process of sealing up your house to prevent bats from getting in.

Extermination will only work on the short term because other bats will get in and it creates a toxic risk to your family.

Bats unfortunately are declining in numbers, so there is a movement to bat conservation that includes home owners and bats putting up bat houses.

Bat Box

I noticed that County Farm Park has several bat houses up.

Community Garden Potlucks Rock

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County Farm Park Ann Arbor Gardeners

OK. I have said it before. If you want a really great meal, go to a gardener’s potluck. You never know what you are going to get, but it will all be fresh from the garden and the meal will reflect the culinary energy and diversity of the community.

On a culinary note, I feel that there are a few important cooking techniques that are essential for any gardener to help them use all of their great veggies. In my opinion all gardeners need to know how to make:

1) Stir Fry (Great for a large number of mix veg)
2) Quiche (Perfect for all of those dark leafy greens)
3) Salad Dressing (great taste giver to fresh raw veggies)
4) Pizza (Think Veggie Toppings)
5) Soups/Stews (Think purees, gazpacho, lentil dahls, minestrone, hearty stews, chowders)
6) Roasted Veggies (Thinks potatoes, red bell peppers, asparagus, and mix root veggies)
-And do’t forget to add a healthy bunch of fresh herbs to these dishes

Today’s Potluck Menu:

Cherry tomato tasting
Steamed Eggplant mash
Home made sour Kraut
Mix salad with chicken
Sprouted bread with olive/tomato tapenade
Pan fried veggie cake of dandelion greens and garlic chives
Cellophane Rice Noodles with Dried Shrimp
Baked veggie cake with yogurt dressing
Cabbage, beet, and carrot cole slaw
Bitter Melon dish
Fattoush Salad
Varies Fermentation: Pickled Lemon
Home Made Pizza and Focaccia Bread (Recipe) (My offering)

Note: The pizza shown below uses the entire dough recipe to create a very thick single sheet pan crust pizza. You can probably half the dough recipe and get two sheet pan pizza from the it. I use a sheet pan because it is easier to transport. One of these days I will get some pizza boxes.

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Home made pizza ready for transit

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Cherry Tomato Sampler

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olive tomato tapenade

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Baked Veggie Cake w/yogurt sauce

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Fattoush Salad

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Rainbow Bright Sour Kraut

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Steamed Mashed Eggplant

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Cole Slaw

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Salad with Chicken

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Rice Noodles with Dried Shrimp

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Pan Fried Veggie Cake w/dandelion and garlic chives

Toilet Paper Mushrooms: Blue Oyster

Ann Arbor FoodSome may note my minor obsession with growing mushrooms this year. My plan was to hit the ground running with my Wine Cap mushroom that I planted last Oct.

My wine caps have yet to pop up, but I am still hopeful for a fruiting this year in a few weeks. They can take up to 18 months to fruit, so if they do not come up soon it will look like I will have to wait over winter.

The next idea was to get some Shitake logs started, but it was/is next to impossible to find fresh cut oak logs. Believe me I tried.

Don’t be surprised if you hear a chain saw going in the middle of the night in your yard to see mushroom obsessed vandals in a desperate attempt to score a log or two.

So with my wine caps in wait-and-see mode and no go on logs, I set my sights on Oyster mushrooms.

Oysters can be grown on a variety of substrates including pasteurized wheat straw, coffee grounds, newspaper and I even seen I class teaching mushrooms growing on old phone books.

And then there are Toilet Paper mushrooms.

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Toilet Paper mushrooms are by far the easiest ways to get started with growing mushrooms.

I purchase some spore from Chris of Easy Grow Mushrooms, and ordered some special Toilet Paper mushroom  growing bags that have a mess air vent on the top.Trader Joes had the best deal on Chlorine-free Toilet Paper.

Step by Step Instruction

The idea was to grown mushrooms for sale at my booth at The Westside Farmers Market.

They worked like a charm. I got mushroom on 3 weeks with most fruit around the same time.

Chris at Easy Grow said that Toilet Paper Oyster mushrooms tend to be on the same side because the small amount of substrate compared to a good size log, or several gallon bag of straw/coffee grounds.

He was right and I figured that I would not yield enough mushrooms off of my 18-20 rolls of toilet paper to have enough mushrooms for sale.

Each roll yields around 1-2 ounces of mushrooms per fruiting.

My mushrooms looked great and were ready to harvest, so on a lark I figured that I would bring a few to the market to show off.

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The response was huge. People gravitated toward these alien looking things. The toilet paper after three weeks gets so morphed by the mushroom spore that it is hard to recognize. Form a distance, people thought it was a hunk of soft cheese.

They were amazed when I said it was toilet paper.

I ended up selling/trading them as mini-mushroom kits.

They make for a fun grow project for kids and would-be mushroom growing enthusiasts.

I will have more next week at the Westside Farmers Market.

Potato Gardening: Horizontal Growing Method

I have been thinking about a possibly new (new to me) potato growing method I call horizontal potato growing.
I noticed that my Potato plants are growing very tall, which is good, but I ran out of straw to mound them up. My eleven bails did not come close to providing the mound height I wanted for my 25 x 25 feet of potato plants in my community garden plot.
I could not help but feel that all of that extra exposed potato plant height could have been mounded up to promote more off shoots and thus a larger potato harvest per plant.
Then I noticed that my tall plants much like non-staked/caged tomato plants flopped over and vined out on the ground.

Flatten vine potato plant

Looking at this, I got the idea of Horizontal Potatoes.
The idea is to train a potato plant (see above picture) which naturally vines out to grow on the ground flat.
With my Horizontal Potato Method, the vines are trained so that as the plant grows outward a ring stake holds the vine flat on the ground in place (see graphic on top). The exposed vines are then mounded up with 6-12 inches of straw/compost.
The process is continued as the vines grow outward.
With Horizontal growing, instead of having to mound up several feet of straw/soil per plant, all you would need is a few inches of straw to cover the flat plant vine that is lying on the ground.
These vines can be snaked along plant bed in thin straight rows to allow for maximum intensive gardening.
While the tall mounded potato plant has the advantage of small space for high yield, the disadvantage is the cost of straw/compost per plant and a container if using.
The containers below, although nice and easy to use, cost $10 bag, plus a compost, straw and seed potatoes. I plan to reuse them of course including the soil. The issue is the up front cost, which should pay for itself in a second season. (Keep posted for yield results…this is my first year trying them).
I figure that I would need to use about 3/4-1 bale of straw per plant to mound them up to achieve maximum mound height and yield per plant in my current garden.
Then there is all of that time spent mounding some odd 50-100 bails of straw. Of course I can mound the plants up with soil, but we are talking about heavy/hard work shoveling a heck of a lot of soil.
In theory the flat ground potato plant will continue to throw off underground/covered shoots. Potatoes are basically an upside down tomato plant with the fruit growing undergroud/cover.
My 2-3 feet tall vertical plants could have been spread out on the ground and be covered with a minimum of straw.
One plant may grow 3-6 vines that will each growing 2-5 feet horizontally (or more) which would be fully covered to provide a maximum yield potatoes. (In Theory)
Less plants, less seed potatoes, less straw/mound cover, less work mounding potatoes, easier harvest and more potatoes…that is the idea.
All of this is a theory. I will try it out next year.