Kale for Days

 

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I just found this post in my draft folder. I was so sure that I had hit publish on it, but I guess not. This was my intro to the Kale I grew last year. I didn’t manage to get any growing photos of it last year (because 2016 was a giant steamy pile of… fresh compost), BUT I plan on trying them all again this year.

I love Kale. I think most of the world does now too. And the good thing, if you are also a Kale lover… Its ridiculously easy to grow. I was originally just going to group the Kale in with the other Brassicas that I am growing this year, but then I decided to dedicate a whole post just to the Kale

Rule of thumb – cover any kind of Brassica (which Kale is) to protect it from becoming a white cabbage butterfly (or moth…whatever it is) nursery. You can try and spray the eggs off with a jet of water from the hose… and then pick any caterpillars off the leaves later on if you want; But I find the easiest way to protect my brassicas is by covering them with a screen material. The one exception to this, is the Curly Kale. It doesn’t seem to attract the little buggers like pretty much any other brassica does. But be ready to cover it if you start to see the pretty little butterfly floating around them.

I’ve grown the Curly kale over-sown in a container just outside the kitchen door for baby leaves for a few years, and I definitely recommend trying that if you have no where else to grow it. So easy! You can let some of the plants grow on into full sized Kale plants too, so you can get the best of both worlds.

I’m growing 5 different varieties this year! My best friend brought me some different varieties back with her from a trip to Ontario. White Russian and the Rainbow Kale are the new additions here. They are from a seed company called “Urban Harvest” and I’m looking forward to trying all the seeds she brought me.

  • White Russian Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex cells)
    • “This beautiful variety has green, wavy leaves with white stems and veining. Thought to be one of the vest tasting kales. Very tender and hardy. Use baby leaves in salad and mature leaves for stir fry or steaming.” Urban Harvest Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: Not mentioned on seed pack
  •  Rainbow Dinosaur Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex Cells)
    • “This European Kale has been developed by Frank Morton. A cross of Lacinato (Dinosaur) & Redbor hybrid kale. He selected this diverse population that includes the leaf qualities that Lacinato is loves for, overlain with hues of red, purple, and blue-green. More vigorous and cold hardy than Lacinato. Not bitter and very tender.” Urban Harvest Seeds 
    • Days to Maturity: 62
  • Dinosaur (Lacinato) Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex Cells)
    • “Handsome heirloom known for its blue-green crinkled leaves, tender texture & sweet flavor. Delicious in salads, for sauteed greens, soups or braised with garlic & olive oil. Kale’s flavor is vest in cool weather; mature plants handle frost well or extended harvesting” Cornucopia Seeds
  • Red Russian Kale
    • Sowed: April 25 (3x peat pellet)
    • “Dark gray-green leaves provide more vitamins and minerals than other greens. Red and purple hues intensify after fall frost providing tender and sweet rich dark green kale when cooked. Tasty steamed, stir fried or in salads.” McKenzie Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: 60
  • Dwarf Green Curled Kale
    • Sowed: April 25 (3x peat pellet)
    • “Decorative green curled leaves. May be boiled as greens or chopped fresh for salads when young. Kale is the oldest form of cabbage, being superior to most vegetables in protein, vitamin and mineral content. Cool weather crop that likes rich well drained, moisture retaining soil. Tastiest after a light frost. Slow to bolt” McKenzie Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: 60-75

 

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So, for this year (2017), I think I will try the exact same Kale situation as I wrote about above. Which is why I left the dates I sowed them (for my own notes). As always, plans could change. At the very least, I will sow the curly, rainbow and the dinosaur Kale. At this point in my garden plan for this year, Kale will be the only Brassica I am going to grow, with the possibility of Broccoli if I can find some room for it.

If you have any Kale or other Brassica tips, share them in the comments below. Do you have a (preferably organic) way of keeping away the white butterflies? I would love to keep the netting out of my garden that doubles as our backyard landscapes, but I also know that I cannot keep up with hand-picking the eggs or little caterpillars off the plants.

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1 Year In – Update on my Cactus Experiment

I am still trying to hide my seed stash from myself for fear of starting a million things far too early. I’m still in the mindset of keeping things simple this year, and starting seeds in January is not in tune with that. How long I’ll be able to actually hold out is anyone’s guess.

So I thought I would update you on the cacti that I started from seed last year in January. There was an incident. The cats knocked the whole thing over, so there are a few less survivors than there would be otherwise… I currently have 4 survivors. 2 are in peat pellets, and 2 in the original 3″ pot I sowed them all in. The two in peat pellets were the only ones left with any rootball still attached when they fell to the floor. I didn’t want to disturb the ones in the pot that stayed in the soil any more than they already were, so I used some peat pellets that had un-germinated seeds in them, and here we are.

ooo look how in-focus the soil is! Sorry the actual cactus isn’t the focus 😦

The two in the original pot are my favorite. They are doing much better than the little peat pellets ones… understandably. I’ve always wanted one of those cacti that are really pokey, but I always talk myself out of buying them when I see them in shops. So to grow one from seed… needless to say, I’m pretty excited about it. Now I just need to not have it thrown on the ground in a fit of feline angst.

I will pot them into a proper pot once I get sowing seeds later this spring… I may even splurge on some fancy cactus soil for them. My aloe needs some attention as well so It may be worth my while to give it some soil more catered to their special succulent needs. (somehow “succulent needs” just sounds wrong doesn’t it? That’s why I had to leave it in)

If you are interested, This is the link to the original sowing of the seeds post from January 17, 2016. And this is the link to the update a few weeks later once everything started germinating. I haven’t really updated you on them since then.

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Again…Sorry for the blur… But look how Pokey it is!! 🙂

2016 Tomato Harvest

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This photo is all the tomatoes that I was able to harvest in 2016… with the exception of a few Tiny Tim’s that I ate straight off the plant.

There is a singular Black Cherry there. And I got one or two Yellow Pears. The rest in the photo are all Sub Arctic Plenty.

I sound like a broken record… but the damn squirrels stole all the rest.

If you remember, I had planned to grow a ton of the heirloom varieties I have seed for, to replenish my seed stash. I sowed 17 varieties, with at least 1 plant of each kind. For some varieties, I sowed up to 4. with at least 1 for me, the rest to share with friends. So to only get tomatoes from 4 of those I planted and tended was so disheartening.

Here is the list of tomatoes I grew last year:

  • Orange Wellington
  • Black Russian
  • Black Cherry
  • Beefsteak
  • Pink Brandywine
  • Rutgers
  • Cherokee Purple
  • Yellow Pear
  • Boxcar Willie
  • Golden Cherry
  • Chadwick’s Cherry
  • Principe Borghese
  • Sub-Arctic Plenty
  • Tumbler
  • Tiny Tim
  • Manitoba
  • Green Envy

Even though the squirrels were the main problem, I am also chalking the poor season up to to the weird weather, and the fact that 2016 was the worst year of my life thus far. I also didn’t bother saving any seed.

Thoughts for 2017: I have yet to decide on the varieties for this year. I’m trying to keep my seeds out of sight so I don’t start too many, and too early. I think the tomatoes this year in the yard are going to look far different than in previous years. “Tomato Island” doesn’t quite work. There isn’t as much sun there as in other areas of the yard. And since we finally have the patio started (and will hopefully finish in early spring), I can dot the tomato containers around in the warmer areas on the patio. Other people have had some success spraying with aspirin, so I may try that. It causes a reaction in the tomato that makes it think it is being attacked, so the plant becomes stronger thinking that it was attacked, when it is really fine. However, in my plan to simplify things, I may just cut down on the amount of tomatoes and just provide them with what they need rather than getting in over my head with all the extra things that don’t NEED to happen. Time will only tell what ends up happening in the garden this year

Do you have any suggestions on what tomatoes to try?

 

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Cobaea ‘Cathedral Bells’

With the piles of snow outside, I thought it might be nice to go back to some things I grew last year (or even previous to that) and recount the experience.

Pronounced  Ko-Bee-Uh, it is also sometimes referred to as Cup & Saucer Vine or  Monastery Vine.

Some quick googling tells me that this is only hardy to Zone 9-10. I figured it was worth the risk last year, since we started the year off so warm. And usually, if something is impossible to grow here, then they don’t sell it here.

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I started them inside early because whether it was warm or not, we are still only a zone 3/4 (or 5-ish on a good year).

Since the seedlings were much larger than I anticipated, I ended up potting them up much sooner than I normally would. (3 into party cups on April 11, and the remaining 6 into party cups on April 17th… would have been sooner, but I needed to buy more potting soil and cups)

These things grew fantastic… They cling onto nearly anything. I had one climbing up a bare 4×4 fence post. It did not need any trellising to climb. They did not seem to like the teepee of smooth bamboo canes.

While they grew fantastic. I didn’t get any flowers… Our summer was cool and dry when it is normally warm and wet… and then hot and wet, when it is normally starting to cool. And then the cold just kind of came in with a bang. 2016 was weird. I had these planted in 4 different areas. They definitely need as much sun as possible. Morning shade with hot afternoon sun was great for them. The 2 plants I put into the area that gets morning sun and evening shade did not fare well. This may be partly due to soil, but I think they just need the heat (being that they are from a hot climate).

Will I try these again? Possibly. They were pretty tenacious and I like that. But I might wait for a different year when I’m feeling more ambitious to try new and different things.

I didn’t keep any pictures I may have taken of them growing to share with you now. If they had flowered, there probably would have been tons of photos.

Have you grown these? Share your experiences in the comments below.

 

16 Days til Christmas – Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls (Overnight)

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I’m stepping up my Cinnamon Roll game here. I’m using the same recipe as I did a couple months back, so these would be good if you have a bunch of company over and want to wow them at breakfast time. You do most of the work the night before, and then reap the rewards in the morning.


You don’t have to make these overnight… You could just do a second rising for about 2 hours and then bake right away. If you do this, they will be a little larger.

Rather than just plain Cream Cheese Icing, we are going to spice that up a little bit with a little pumpkin spice action too. (If you like a lot of icing, double this recipe for it. I find that fresh out of the oven, cinnamon buns only need a little bit, but after a day or two, the icing really helps them along.)

We are using canned pumpkin puree… Don’t confuse it with the pumpkin pie filling… we just want the plain pumpkin puree. You may also want to think of some other pumpkin type things to make with it, since we won’t be using the entire can.

Second, we are using Pumpkin Pie Spice, rather than just cinnamon… (4 parts cinnamon, 1 part nutmeg, 1 part ginger, 1 part allspice). You can adjust the quantities of them to suit your own tastes if you make your own. I usually add a teeny bit extra nutmeg, and a little less allspice.

Lastly before we get started, I’m sending you to my first cinnamon bun post for the dough recipe because it is exactly the same. Exactly, so I’m not going to repeat it word for word in this post… Just head back to this post where the directions say “After the first dough rise” in bold. (The icing I used is also the same from that post)

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Butter (REALLY soft)
  • 3/4 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

Okay, so with your dough all risen and ready to be rolled out, lets get started:

  1. Roll the dough out on a floured surface so that it is a rectangle, roughly 12 x 18 inches or slightly larger. The dough should be about 1/4″ thick evenly on the whole surface of the rectangle.
  2. Spread the softened butter on the rectangle of dough. You can use melted butter just as easily, but you will get a little more of a mess to clean up.
  3. Spread the pumpkin puree evenly. Leave about 2-3 inches at the far long side clear of the pumpkin. This will help your rolls be able to ‘seal’ so the end doesn’t just go loosey goosey.  You can use more or less puree if you want. I only estimate that I used 3/4 cup, as I just scooped straight from the can until It looked right.
  4. Here, you can either sprinkle the sugar and spice separately over the pumpkin, Or you can whisk them together and sprinkle the mixture on. The choice is totally yours, and whatever you find easiest.
    1. You may find that these need a little more sugar. I had mixed reviews. Everyone said they were delicious, but some said that they prefer really sweet sticky cinnamon buns. Follow your instincts, as this is totally adaptable.
  5. Roll the whole lot up evenly, and with a sharp knife, cut into 12 even pieces. Place in a well greased 9×13″ baking dish, and cover.
  6. Place in the fridge over night
    1. Alternatively, To make these not ‘overnight,’ you can leave them at room temperature and let them rise for about 2 hours. Then just follow from the baking directions in step 8.
  7. In the morning, let the rolls come up to temperature for about half an hour, to an hour. They will rise more in this time. (Remove the plastic wrap before the next step)
  8. In a preheated 350F oven, Bake the rolls for 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on them and when they are a golden brown on top, pull them out.
  9. Let cool for about 10 minutes in the dish, and then flip them over. This helps keep the filling in the rolls.
  10. Once the rolls are completely cool, You can cover them with the same icing from the last recipe. I added a little pinch of pumpkin pie spice in mine. Maple extract might be a nice touch with the pumpkin also.