Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer Zucchini Relish

Unemployment is capitalism's way of getting you to plant a garden.
~Orson Scott Card

In the growing of zucchini, there’s ALWAYS one that gets away. I much prefer to pick them no bigger than 4-5 inches (10-12 cm) long and with the wilted flower still attached. That is a perfect size to slice up medallions for pizza or slice in half lengthwise to grill for a few minutes on the gas grill like Debra does.  That small size also has miniscule seeds and a still firm center. Catching them at that size takes daily perusal. I was sure there was one to check on…should be perfect for dinner tonight by now. But when I looked, there it was. The first of the year to quadruple in size overnight! Well over a foot long (30 cm) I contemplated tossing it into the compost but that’s such a waste. I could make it into a casserole, or bread but I didn’t want to use the oven and I didn’t have all the ingredients for Vindaloo or Quesadillas. Nor did I want anything to be that involved. I was taking it easy that day, still feeling the effects of a migraine from the day before.

Hmmm, what to do. My friend Kathy LOVES those big’uns for making her relish for canning but I only had one and she doesn’t live close by. Looking through my recipe card files…no…I neglected to get the recipe from her. Ok, this can’t be that complicated…find one in the cookbooks and try it. As you can see I have saved several pickle recipes in years past. I tried pickling some zucchini spears last year but didn’t really like them. I didn’t find a recipe that was interesting and easy for my lack of energy and patience, but reading through a dozen or so for pickles and relish, I made one up and got started.

Making a relish is perfect for trying out the new shredder attachment my sister gave me at Christmas for the KitchenAid. Without it I wouldn’t have attempted all that grating by hand.

Cool shredder! Lickety split, done in less than 5 minutes! I can see how useful this will be for lots of recipes.

I used the ‘coarse’ shredding cone. It did a pretty good job with only a few chunks left uncut.

To that bowlful I added

• 2 tsp of Celtic Sea Salt (the gray salt but pink Himalayan sea salt would be great too)

and left it to sit for an hour to draw out the water from the zucchini. Give it a stir now and then. It will become frothy. After the hour soak, I let it drain in a colander for an hour. Don’t rinse it; you don’t want to lose those healthy minerals from your sea salt nor do you want to add moisture back in.

Meanwhile make up your ‘sauce’.

In a small bowl I combined:
• ½ c apple cider vinegar (local from Rockridge Orchards, yum)
• ¾ c Sucanat (a healthier form of sugar Shari told me about)
• ¼ tsp tumeric
• 1/8 tsp ground mustard seed (prepared mustard is fine)
• 7 twists of freshly ground fenugreek (no, it’s not in any of my recipes but I love fenugreek and in it goes. It’s wonderful on any veg)

Let all that dissolve and blend while the zucchini is draining. When the zucchini finished draining I spooned it into a wide mouth quart canning jar, poured in enough ‘sauce’ just to cover, gave it a stir, capped it and put it into the refrigerator. The jar was about ¾ full, but I took this picture after we had it for dinner. I had enough sauce for probably 2 jars but didn’t have another zucchini that big. You could save it for another batch or I just poured it into a salad dressing jar, added an equal amount of olive oil for a delish salad dressing.

One recipe for ‘quick cucumber pickles’ said by the next day you can enjoy them. I wanted to spoon this relish over a grilled salmon patty for dinner so it didn’t sit that long, but by next day it should be even better….if it lasts that long. I think the salting and draining of the zucchini leaves it softened and ready to absorb the sauce quickly which is why this doesn’t need weeks to be ready to enjoy.

I must say…this was a wonderful meal. Over a bed of lettuce I layered some brown rice, the grilled salmon patty, the relish and drizzled some sauce over the lettuce and rice. Yum. I’m tempted to let several zucchini ‘get away’ now that I have this recipe. It’s a keeper. I can see this jar won’t last much more than a day or two. It will be good on just about anything.

A relish from garden to table in a matter of hours…how fresh is that!

In bloom in my garden today: Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop), Alpine Strawberries, Alyssum, Armeria, Astlbe, Begonia ‘bonfire’, Borage, Bletilla pink, Crocosmia ‘george davidson’, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’, Digitalis grandiflora, Echinacea, Fuchsia, Geranium ‘mavis simpson’, Gladiolus callianthus (formerly Acidanthera), Green Beans, Hosta, Huchera, Lavender, Lily, Lobelia, Mullen chaixii ‘Album’, Nepeta, Oregano, Phygelius ‘new sensation’ (cape fushia), Rose, Salvia, Scheherazade oriental lily, Schizostylis ‘watermelon’, Star Jasmine (trachelospermum jasminoides), Thyme ‘foxley’, Tigridia (Mexican Shell Flower), Tomato, Zucchini

Author’s photos

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Abyssinian Glads Are Back!

If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener.
~J. C. Raulston

Perhaps you remember this post featuring Abyssinian glads  I wrote in 2009.

Well here’s an update, if you will, on one bit of information I wrote then. I wrote that my original bulbs purchased were from Old House Gardens , which produced such beautiful and very fragrant flowers that I was hooked on them. So wonderful they are that I am willing to consider them annuals and buy new bulbs every year since they are not hardy enough for my USDA zone 7 garden to come back strong yearly. For the 2 years following I bought bagged bulbs from the garden center at Fred Meyer (Kroger) because it saved me on shipping costs and price per bulb over all. Well the first ‘thrifty’ batch of bulbs never produced any flowers at all. I wondered if it was due the cold fall that came earlier than normal, so I chalked the failure up to the weather in that given year. The following year my newly purchased package of ‘thrifty’ bulbs were planted and grew lots of lovely leaves again but our summer was overall colder than normal and this time I only got a few flowers to enjoy. Out of about 20 bulbs I got 5 that formed blooms. And it was another bad year for weather. Both of these years also gave me fits in the vegetable garden so you can see why I blamed it on the weather. I decided to buy my 2011 stock from Old House Gardens again to see if my thrifty-ness was the problem.

Well duh! The bulbs I received from OHG are far bigger, more than twice the size of the bulbs I was getting at the garden center. Clearly the package bulbs sold to the discounters are not of blooming size. Have you bought packaged bulbs at a hardware store or nursery only to have them fail. Did you blame yourself for doing something wrong to cause the failure? If a bulb is too small it won’t bloom for a year or more till it reaches the proper size, if it grows at all. It may not have been your fault. I have even seen these same packages being sold at a pricey nursery in my area. As you can see in the photo, four bulbs of the proper size nearly fill my hand.

All I can say is I wouldn’t buy them anywhere but Old House Gardens from now on and this isn’t an endorsed plug for them. It’s buyer beware as you know and when I can I like to steer fellow gardeners to the best resources I know of. Their link has been in my sidebar since I set up this blog in 2008 because they have quality stock are nice and personable to deal with by phone or online. Have you ever heard of Garden Watchdog ? It is a site that rates mail-order companies for gardeners. It’s quite handy to know about as it can save you headaches by learning from others experiences. Good to know that Old House Gardens is in their top 30 of most highly rated companies!

Here it is early August and the first flowers are opening. This has been a bad year weatherwise for us again, but the bulbs which I planted in April grew quickly and have lush leaves despite the cold, wet, cloudy spring and early summer we have had.

Thrifty isn’t thrifty if you are getting a lesser quality product for your money and the disappointment of poor performance. It’s simply a waste of money. For two years I missed out on the gorgeous flowers and fabulous fragrance by unknowingly buying under sized bulbs. They were simply not big enough to bloom.

Forgive me OHG for ever doubting your superiority. I’ll be back next year for my bulbs. From now on my gorgeous, fragrant Abyssinian glads (Gladiolus callianthus) will be from OHG!

In bloom in my garden today: Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop), Alpine Strawberries, Alyssum, Armeria, Astlbe, Begonia ‘bonfire’, Borage, Bletilla pink, Crocosmia ‘george davidson’, Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Summer Ice’, Digitalis grandiflora, Echinacea, Fuchsia, Geranium ‘mavis simpson’, Gladiolus callianthus (formerly Acidanthera),Green Beans, Hosta, Huchera, Lavender, Lily, Lobelia, Mullen chaixii ‘Album’, Nepeta, Oregano, Phygelius ‘new sensation’ (cape fushia), Purple poppies, Rose, Salvia, Scheherazade oriental lily, Star Jasmine (trachelospermum jasminoides), Thalictrum rochebrunianum (meadow rue), Thyme ‘foxley’, Tigridia (Mexican Shell Flower), Tomato, Veronica, Wisteria, Zucchini

Author’s photos