Hello! We're happy to have you!

Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Fermented Habanero Hot Sauce

 



Fermented Habanero Hot Sauce

yields 1 qt hot sauce

  • 1 pint of organic habanero peppers
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 c apple cider vinegar, plus more for after the fermentation process
  • 1 1/2 c unchlorinated water
  • 2 Tbsp organic fresh ginger, finely chopped
Please note: It's actually important to get organic stuff because it's absolutely guaranteed to ferment, whereas it's not always a guarantee with the stuff that's had pesticides. 

I'd like to tell you now, at the beginning of the recipe, that the most important ingredient in this recipe is time. At least 2 weeks is required, but the longer you let this ferment, the better it will taste. You can ferment this for up to 6 months, but I personally prefer a 3-month ferment. You can plan accordingly, now that you know what kind of time table you're about to have on your hands. Are you still interested? Great! Let's continue...

Clean your peppers and set up a cutting board, ideally a flexible plastic one that can immediately go in the wash. I also advise you to use gloves and to make a conscious effort to not touch your face, eyes, ears, or any other sensitive areas until you've washed your hands thoroughly during the hot pepper chopping process. Make sure you also wash your utensils immediately after you do all of this chopping!

To prepare your peppers, simply remove the stems from your habaneros and roughly chop so that they're all the same size. Peel and chop the ginger, quite finely. Add this to your favorite fermenting croc jar and toss it all with the sugar. If you don't have a good lidded ceramic croc jar, use a mason jar that you can have in a place that's away from direct sunlight. Let this sit for about 10 minutes. 



Pour the water-vinegar mixture over your peppers, then stir well with a metal spoon. Make sure that you have enough liquid to submerge your peppers in their entirety, or they might spoil! All that's required of you now is to cover the jar and wait! Do yourself a favor and set yourself a calendar reminder every week, around the same time, to stir and check on your fermentation.


This is my favorite fermentation jar. I made it.


I'm so lucky to have this gorgeous ceramic jar to ferment my goodies in, but it's absolutely fine if you have a few clean mason jars lying around the kitchen to use! If you have a screw-top jar, you're going to want to 'burb' your mixture every few days by unscrewing the top and allowing any gas to escape. You're really going to want to do this. You don't want to clean up an exploded hot sauce glass jar from your cabinet. Just save yourself the trouble. 

Special note: when you check your pepper mixture after a week or so, you may see a sort of white film on the top of your mixture. This is called kahm yeast. It is not mold, nor is it harmful. This is rather sour, though, so you may want to skim it off the top and discard it!


While we're waiting, shall we talk about hot peppers? 

Most every continent has native capsicum, and the Americas are no different. Peppers are actually native to tropical America, which means anything near the equator and south of.  It's actually quite fun to look up all the peppers that are native to where you are from! Peppers are berries, and they're quite easy to grow in warm climates. If you have a cooler climate, you'll really get the best yield out of them by growing them in a greenhouse or inside in containers in a sunny window. I personally have better luck with most peppers by keeping them in hanging baskets by my window, even in winter. Read all about that in my victory garden post!




I'd very much like to take credit for the number of peppers in this particular brew, but it's actually from a dear friend of mine. I'm partnering with my good friend Alicia, and the rest of the wonderful people at the KC Farm School at Gibbs road. This place is a real working and teaching farm with a wonderful example of permaculture to boot. They have chickens, a big greenhouse, and a tall and lovely cornfield. They're dear friends of mine, so please do give them a Like and a Follow, if you can spare one.  They also have this scarecrow that lives in their cornfield, which definitely does not come alive on the full moon to eat naughty children. 

I first met Alicia when I was the head chef of a not-for-profit organization that combated food insecurity in my city. It was my job to feed a few hundred food-insecure people every day, and I learned more than a lot about how food is grown and consumed in this country of mine during that time. One thing I learned is that the biggest obstacle, in my personal experience, is not exactly getting good food to good and healthy food, but rather getting them to try it. 

When it comes to combatting food insecurity and the unhealthy relationship that the average American family has with food, you must understand that we do not have a good work-life balance in this country. I don't know when the ideology of "If you work, you should be able to have a weekend and to be able to afford a house, food, bills, etc.," became an extremist belief, but there you have it. The reality is that many families nowadays don't have the most ideal schedule, especially those with working single parents and multiple children. The hard thing isn't necessarily acquiring good and healthy food, but it's getting everyone to eat it.

Think about your mental capacity and energy throughout the day, and imagine you're a harried single parent in the middle of a pandemic, trying to scrape together every cent to make a living. Would you rather have a fight with your child about doing their homework or about eating a salad that you made? Would you rather spend time cooking an ingredient you're unfamiliar with, then spending more time getting your child to eat it instead of pick around it on the plate? Or would you rather just throw on something that you know they'll eat and then save your energy about the homework fight, or the bathtime fight, or the bedtime fight? Furthermore, what if you didn't grow up in a household that afforded you the education of learning how to cook? 

Most of the people that know how to cook learned from their parents or grandparents, if not cooking classes later in life. I was incredibly fortunate in that I had a grandmother that knew how to cook, and who cooked with me as a child. My father cooked, my mother cooked...everyone cooked. Everyone also had a good grasp on how to run a home and I benefitted from that by watching them. I tried new foods because they always tried new foods, and as far as I remember I was never a picky eater. The point is that not everybody had that same food-loving family structure growing up, so it's unfair to assume that they did when having a conversation about food going on the table for everyone

After your preferred fermentation period, you're ready to make your hot sauce! Are you excited? Because I am!

Drain the peppers slowly and reserve the liquid. Add the solids of your mixture to a food processor or blender and add about 1/4 cup of the fermentation brine along with another 1/4 c of vinegar. You can use either apple cider vinegar or white vinegar at this point, but I personally prefer the sweetness of the apple cider in this particular application, because habaneros are incredibly hot. Please also note that this will likely explode in a cloud of spice when you pour, so please be cautious!

Blend this concoction on low for 1 minute, and then on high for 30 seconds, or until entirely smooth. You can strain out the solids with a fine-mesh sieve, but I personally prefer a thicker sauce so I don't strain. All that's left now is to bottle it in either a glass bottle or glass mason jar to be kept in the fridge! I love the fermentation process, and the fact that it does continue to ferment in my fridge, so I don't cook my sauce, even though you can cook it to stop the process and intensify the flavor more to your liking. No matter what, this is the stage you'll want to taste it and add salt to your liking. 



And there you have it! A gorgeous, fermented hot sauce for the table that will last you a good long while. Use this as you would use your regular store-bought hot sauce for a little extra zing while you're cooking! I hope you've enjoyed this post. Please feel free to experiment as much as you like with this hot sauce recipe. Don't be afraid to add garlic, dry spices, different kinds of peppers, and more! 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Soft Cucumber Bread

Spongey!

So you're getting a lot of cucumbers from your Victory Garden. That's great! But also irritating. Maybe you're not even getting them from the garden but from your CSA, or your Farmer's Sampler Box that you've subscribed to? Either way, you have a problem and I want to help you solve it. What's the problem? Too many dang cucumbers!

You could make it into a salad, a tzatziki sauce, or even braise them. But what's really creative? How about making it into some steamed bread?

Note: I used my rice cooker to cook this, but if you have a large enough steamer that all of this will fit in, I do recommend that as well. I haven't ever baked this, so go ahead and tell me what happens if you do! Try a lower temperature of 325 degrees F with a pan of water underneath the rack in the oven.

Spongey and Soft Cucumber Bread

  • Roughly 500 g of cucumber, about 6 smaller ones or maybe 2 large ones...really, just use a scale
  • 30 g raw sugar or honey
  • 2 eggs 
    • I used duck eggs, but you can use chicken eggs if that's what you have
  • 5 g yeast
  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • **Optional: 25 g sourdough starter
  • **Optional: sesame seeds and dried fruit, for fun
Measure your cucumbers on a scale and chop them up. Mix them with the sugar and eggs, just to break up the yolk and coat everything, and then pop everything in the blender. This is the fun part! 

Duck eggs have a larger yolk than chicken eggs, which means they are fattier and have a higher amount of omega-3s! Please note, duck eggs are much richer than chicken eggs, so they will change cakes slightly if used to bake with! 

You're going to want to start on low, and then move it up to medium-high speed. Make sure the stuff is incredibly smooth! The skin will blend just fine. Cucumber has high water content, so you don't need to add water to blend this into a liquid. The skin is packed full of nutrients, and the seeds - when crushed - will help release some good stuff as well. Don't stop blending until you know it's absolutely liquid, which should take about 2 minutes. I know it seems like a long time, but it's worth it.

Add your liquid to a large bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast, and stir. Add in your flour, and stir - with a spoon or a pair of chopsticks - gradually until it becomes quite a thick paste. You'll want some gluten, so the stirring will take a little time, about 3 minutes. When it becomes a thick and smooth paste, you may add in some dried fruit or sesame seeds, just in case you want a little extra flavor and crunch. 

Oil the pan you want to use. I would choose a tall cake pan with high sides, as this will rise - rather quickly, in fact - and double in size. It's a wet dough, so you won't be taking it out of the pan and shaping it for a second prove. This is more like a cake than it is a loaf of bread, but don't hold that against it. Either way, dump your lovely green paste into this pan, cover it, and leave it to proof in a warm place. It's rather quick to rise, so it shouldn't take more than an hour to double in size. 

While we're waiting, let's talk about farmer's boxes!

This is my Farmer's box from Prairie Birthday Farm, a local place not far from me!
I'm certain you're sick of me advocating for the local farmer and the slow-food movement right now. I know that it's not always the most accessible thing for folks in an urban area, that need to work 50+ hours per week, that are struggling to put food on the table as it is. I know it may sound like I'm out of touch to the financial realities of many; I assure you, I've had my fair share of struggles as well. I know that it's hard and emotionally draining to have to actively think about food when it's so much easier to just get a burger from any fast food joint that you have near you. The point is I don't feel right about preaching unless I'm willing to walk the talk, so here we go.

I usually get most of my produce from farmer's markets, but I am also aware of the lack of social distancing that might happen there. Any place that could gather large crowds I personally would rather avoid as much as possible right now, so I figured I'd go right to the source. This helps the farmer, too, as it cuts down on a lot of extra effort on their part! My personal favorite part of this entire thing was actually the nice drive up to the farm. I did have to take the highway for about 20 minutes, but the last 15 minutes of my journey was through gorgeous rolling farmland, and it was truly good for this tired soul. 

A Farmer's Box generally has goodies from the farm in bags, and it's whatever they have. As you can see, I've got plenty of gorgeous blossoms and microgreens, some long beans, a couple of Cucuzza squash, some pattypan squash, some squash blossoms, and - you guessed it - lots of cucumbers! And are those farm-fresh duck eggs you see in the top corner? They sure are. In fact, those are the same duck eggs featured in this recipe!

Now, this wouldn't normally be how I buy food and cook. That's okay! Now is the perfect time for me, and you, to explore a new way of cooking and eating that is not just more interesting, but more sustainable and truly seasonal to where I am in the world. It's a lovely and old way of eating. I know that this may seem daunting to the average bear, but this is why this blog exists: I do the work, you reap the benefits. 

Has your bread risen yet? If not, go ahead and check out this place here to see what options you have in your zip code. If you're in the Kansas City area, why not contact Prairie Birthday Farm and give them a try? Their Instagram is amazing!

This took about an hour to rise! So quick!
Add this immediately to your steamer or rice cooker and cook for about 40-45 minutes. Like I said earlier - if you want to try the oven, go for it! I've never done it before, so I'd really like to see how your results come in if you do. 

Evacuate from the cooking vessel of your choice, turn the bread out, and let cool on a rack until entirely cool. It's going to be incredibly springy and taste exactly like cucumber. Is this a good or bad thing? I think it's good!

So fragrant! It smells just like cucumber!

I love this recipe because it's a creative way to use up the cucumbers from a prolific group of plants. I use this bread with some lemon butter as a snack or toasted as sandwich bread for a chicken salad. I think it's a great snack that's just slightly sweet, so it'll scratch that mid-afternoon itch, or perhaps even that breakfast itch you might have. This makes delicious toast, especially with avocado or cream cheese. It's a healthy and fragrant bread that has potassium and vitamin C! 

I understand that this is a strange-sounding thing, but you never know you like something until you try it! Now is a perfect time to become a little more adventurous with your eating, and hone your cooking skills to boot.

You might love this bread cubed up and toasted with olive oil and herbs to make the most-amazing croutons you've ever had. You might love this as a sandwich. You might just love it as it is! You'll never know until you try.

Thank you so much for reading. I feel like I'm using my powers for good when I write about things that I'm passionate about. The farmer is the legs that our country stands upon and I believe that these people are owed respect. If we can all help out the farmer by changing up our diets just a little bit, I think we should do it. Remember, this is all about progress, not perfection. If we all, collectively, do a little bit to help our community, our farmer friends, and our planet by eating sustainably, then we can all make a big impact on this beautiful world we live in. Please note that corporations do exponentially more pollution than the individual does, so small changes for every person while you write letters and advocate for less pollution to your congresspeople is best. 

Thanks so much again for coming on this journey with me! Stay safe, stay happy, and stay healthy. Happy cooking and happy eating!


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Strawberry Rose Tartlets

Do you like my tartlet pans? I got them at Sur la Table!
I think I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: "Strawberry and roses. Is that going to be okay?" Yes, and here's why:

Strawberries are sour, sweet, and can be incredibly fragrant. Roses are astringent in flavor but incredibly fragrant as well. Both are perennials. Both are edible. Both are growing in my garden. When you balance astringency with sweet and sour flavors the right way, it creates something magical and whole in your mouth. The idea of a tartlet is to have full and complete flavors all in a small package. If you've already gotten a good crop of goodies happening in your own garden, or perhaps have a neighbor with a good garden that is willing to share their harvest of berries with you, I think you should do these berries the proper respect by treating them with love and elevating them to be the best things they can be. Be forewarned, this recipe takes time, but it is absolutely worth it.


Strawberry Rose Tartlets
yields 6

Strawberry Filling

  • Garden fresh strawberries, about a pint and a half
  • 3 large leaves of lemon balm, chiffonade
    • Why grow this stuff? Not only is it delicious, but it keeps mosquitos away!
    • Don't have lemon balm growing? Use basil, oregano, or tarragon instead. Any soft and fragrant herb will do nicely!
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp dried lemon zest or 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
  • Petals of 2 roses
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 c tapioca flour

Olive Oil Tart Dough

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2.3 oz good olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • Enough vodka to make it all come together, about 4 Tbsp


Start by gathering strawberries and washing them in a large bowl with a solution of water and a little apple cider vinegar. Then hull and cut the strawberries in half before tossing them with the sugar, salt, roses, lemon balm, and lemon peel. Stir very well and cover with either a clean tea towel or plastic clingfilm. Let sit overnight. Yes, overnight. This is crucial because you're going to want to draw out all of that delicious pectin. While you're waiting, you can make the dough, as well.

Not all of the strawberries absolutely have to be perfectly red when a baked product is involved. Pick white ones, too!

Simply combine all of the dough ingredients in a small bowl with a fork or a pair of chopsticks until it becomes one ball of dough. Wrap all that with clingfilm and let it sit overnight as well. The dough will be incredibly crumbly, and that's okay. While we wait, let's talk about the history of strawberries!

Strawberries are native to the Americas. Yes, that's right, these babies are All-American Beauties. They used to be called 'strewn berries' by ye olde English because they grow low to the ground and seem to be 'strewn about'. They're incredible perennial evergreen plants, but I even hesitate to call them evergreen as I've seen their leaves turn a brilliant purplish-red in the winter with my own eyes. So long as you keep them mulched heavily, they'll grow and stay verdant in the depths of winter, but don't think that they're indestructible. They do need some care and fertilizing to make deliciously plump berries each year. Colonists were so fond of them that there are records of them shipping the plants and berries back to Europe as early as the 1600s.

I spoke about strawberries recently in my "Real Girl Guide to Victory Gardens" blog, so I'm sure you all must know that I love the plants a great deal. When growing strawberries, please plan for a sunny patch of garden, and plan for plenty of space over the coming years. Strawberries make their own babies in the summer and fall, so be sure to have lots of room for them unless you plan on putting them in planters and giving them away to friends. Like asparagus, they get bigger each year with the deeper the root system, so do be patient with them. The strawberries you likely get in the grocery store are likely going to be strawberries coming from plants that are not only juiced up with fertilizer but at least a few years old.

Have I lulled you to sleep yet? Are you awake? Is it the next morning? Have you had your coffee? Oh, good.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and use a rolling pin to roll out your tart dough between two sheets of parchment or plastic wrap. Line six small tart pans with your dough and make sure to press into the grooves as much as you can to get that signature tart shape. Pop these puppies back in the fridge until you're ready to fill and bake.

Drain the juice from the strawberries into a small saucepot and bring to a simmer. Let cook for about 3 minutes until slightly syrupy in texture. In the meantime, toss the macerated strawberries with the tapioca flour, and then pour the simmering syrup onto the strawberries, stirring gently. Drain that new mixture into the saucepot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer until thick and delicious, a little less than five minutes. Stir and let cool to room temperature before adding the strawberries back in.

It might get messy, so do yourself a favor and make the cleanup easy for Future You. 

Once the strawberries are folded into your thick and jelly-like syrup, you can line a sheet tray with foil or a Silpat mat to catch any spillage that may occur. Spoon your fruit filling into your chilled tartlet pans and bake at 350 on the bottom rack of the oven for 25 minutes, or until the filling has swollen up from the heat and the tart dough is lightly colored. The filling will recess into its tart shells with time as it cools.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for at least 20 minutes. You may pop them out of the pans afterward, but do not eat them for at least 2 hours so the pectin may set. If you cut into a berry pie or tartlet like this before the pectin sets, it'll never go back to being gel-like and forever be runny.

It's worth the wait. 
This recipe is something I threw together from what was growing in my garden. The best part about that sort of thing is that it was basically free to make, which I'm sure that we can all use. It is my true and sincere hope that after the pandemic is buried in the ground then we'll be able to come out of this traumatic experience with a good garden and a good amount of knowledge on what to do with all the things growing in there. Chefs like me are all struggling to find our purpose nowadays with restaurants being closed and operating at limited capacities. Some chefs are closing their restaurants permanently. Some are switching gears and turning their restaurants into community kitchens because they, too, got bit by the non-profit bug like I did once upon a time. One thing we can all say with certainty is that the world will never be the same, and I for one am not mad about that.

I think that this pandemic has exposed a lot about the curious animal we call American citizens. A lot of us are viewing common courtesies as 'infringements on rights' and today we saw a large amount of police brutality in Minnesota on those protesting the death of George Floyd. Police are tear-gassing the protestors, and just a couple of weeks ago they let a slew of white protestors with AR-15s holding up signs demanding that their restaurants and salons open back up. Can you guess why the former was treated differently than the latter?

I hope I can look back on this moment in history in 10 years' time and know that I live in a better 'today' than I did 'yesterday.' I hope that we can all look back on 2020 and feel a little wiser and a little more self-sufficient. I also hope that you all write things down. Yes, you! You should write down what's going on today in the world and how you feel about it. Someday, a child may read about it in a textbook and have a real person's account of what's gone on in the days during the great COVID 19 pandemic.

I hope you're all doing well and staying safe. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Real Girl Guide to Victory Gardens

It's me,  your girl, coming to you LIVE from Kansas City!
In the spirit of keeping my promise to all of you out there on how to survive this awful Plague - and thus the quarantine - this piece is going to not contain any recipes. This is going to be a review and honest testimonial of what it is to grow a Victory Garden in modern-day life.

What the heck is a Victory Garden? In short, it's a gardening plot grown for the sake of supplementing your food supplies in times of shortage. A non-insignificant amount of them are coming back right now because they were immensely popular in nearly any wartime era in modern western civilization. Ranging from 1917 Canada to 1940s Great Britain, the government propagandized growing your own food. It was really all translation for: "grow your own food because we're not gonna bloody pay higher prices to Brazil for meat and we're a tiny-ass island that relies on imports so bugger off." The only difference is that they didn't say that they said "WAGE WAR BY GARDENING! GLORY TO THE EMPIRE!"

Audrey Hepburn famously said: "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow."  That's a nice quote, but what on earth are you meant to do when you need food today and are worried about tomorrow? A Victory Garden is an amazing idea in theory, but not the best idea in practice, considering that it's not something that gives you food immediately but will give you food later. 

I think that the idea is that you were meant to have a deep freezer, a good supply of edible things, but in the spirit of someone who's been experimenting on permaculture for the last 7 or 8 years, I'd like to share my POV from a person that doesn't have all her own land, that lived in a rental, that now owns her home and has had experience with container gardening as well as in-ground stuff. I want to tell you what works, what's fast, what's realistic for you - the part-time gardener - to expect. This is a real testimonial from a real working person that's grown her own food to supplement and saved a lot of money. Here we go!




Chilies
I personally have never had very good luck with bell peppers, but small, hot chilies in containers have done wonders for me, especially when grown in hanging baskets on the south-facing side of my house. I have no earthly idea why they seem to have done better for me that way, but they sure have. Maybe because they're mostly a tropical/warm climate berry that does better indoors away from the cold at night? Either way, one summer I got so many chilies I had to resort to drying them as I went because there was no amount of salsa I could make that would possibly catch up with what I was producing. I dried them and pounded them, and hung them in bunches near my door. Small, hot chilies like bird chilies are great to grow in small containers, and you'll love having them dried and ready to go in the pantry.



Nasturtium
What is my favorite thing about the nasturtium? Perhaps it is because watching these guys in the rain is oddly satisfying, considering they're hydrophobic. Perhaps it's because their peppery taste makes them incredible for pesto, and that the entire plant is edible so you don't only have to pick the leaves. Perhaps it is because the flowers and leaves make beautiful garnishes. Perhaps it is because you can dry them and use them in everything from tea blends to hair toner. Perhaps it is even because of this plant's aroma, planted between other plants, help to keep pests at bay. The world may never know. 

Please note: these are Parisienne carrots, which grow in little globe-shapes like this!

Carrots
Here's what's annoying about them: they're so finicky about their soil type. And, no, they're not the kind you can really do well in a container. The seeds are paper-thin so you would be hard-pressed to have success should you plant them on a windy day. They're small so you need to sew them in clumps, but if you don't thin them you'll never get anything out of them. The good thing about them is that even if the root never takes hold and makes a big fat carrot, you'll still get the greens, which are tasty in an of themselves. You can braise them or add them to curries and soups, or saute them with bacon and spices. They're not the easiest thing to grow and I wouldn't really recommend for a victory garden unless you have the absolute right kind of soil. I've had some very mixed results with carrots so I wouldn't start here.

Beets do come in all shapes, sizes, and colors!
Beets
Falling in the same category but with large enough seeds to actually plant would be beets. You do have to thin them to get decent roots, but they're easy enough to grow and aren't as finicky about soil as carrots are. They come in a variety of colors, and if you get sugar beets you can even make your own sugar from them! They're a great crop for a beginning gardener because they grow relatively fast and can stay in the ground for just about as long as you want them to, so long as it's not too hot. I'd also like to tell you to not be alarmed when you pee and it's red. In case you don't know, beets color your pee and poo.

Cat not included.

Roses
They look dead most of the year, but I don't think I need to tell you how glorious a rose garden can be in the summer. The best part about cut roses is how they look, of course, but did you know that you can make jam from rose petals? You can also make rose water, of course, and your own essential oils. The real reason you should grow roses, however, is that you most likely need a visual pick-me-up. I wouldn't recommend these for a Victory Garden, but it does help to have glorious perennial flowers to attract pollinators.




Marigolds
Edible and hardy, they keep pests away! Plant this intermittently between other veggies, especially tomatoes, to help keep pests away and attract pollinators. And did I mention the blossoms were edible? You can eat the flowers or put them in salads, or chop the blooms up and mix with eggs, then steam or fry them. I know it sounds weird to the western palette, but it won't kill you to give it a try.






Who wants to hear a story? πŸ‘‡ So I am a lot of things. In addition to being first generation American, a chef, a married person to someone I totally dig above all others, I am a huge fan of PEACHES πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘ so much so that I finally convinced my husband that our house would only be a home if we had a peach tree out back. 🌳 It took me something like 4 years, but last spring I was able to get to @family_tree_nursery and sneak home a peach tree πŸ€«πŸ˜‰. It took a lot of fertilizing, a lot of care, but it yielded an incredible crop of the most delicious little peaches. I made peach blossom tea, peach pit jelly, and of course a ton of #peachpie. It was so quickly producing that I even had to can a fair chunk of my peaches. . I'm sure I'm not the only one that has faced financial difficulties since the quarantine began in March. I'm very fortunate in that I have a partner that has been able to work from home, but I don't have that luxury as a chef. But you know what really gave me hope? 🌸 When I saw my peach tree blossoming in the backyard πŸ˜©πŸ™ reminding me of last summer. . I looked in the cabinet today and only had two small jars of #peaches left, which was JUST enough to dot the tops of my favorite coconut chess pie, along with some peach leaf pie crust decorations! . A chess pie is an American southern #classic in which a custard is baked directly in an unbaked pie shell. I always par bake my crusts because nobody likes a soggy bottom along with an overcooked custard. I make mine with coconut milk and farm fresh eggs I was able to trade a neighbor for a few masks. πŸ˜‹ I especially like them because you can make them big or small, and you can even #bruleΓ© the tops! . So today I submit my Peach and Coconut Chess Pie for the #saferathome KCRW's Good Food Instagram Pie Pageant, with nothing else but the hope that it will inspire YOU to bake! . . #kcrwpie #kansascity #pastrychef #piesofinstagram #pie #baking #quarantinelife #kosherbaking #dairyfree #foodphotography #homecooking @kcrwevan
A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

Peaches
A fruit tree is expensive and needs a lot of care. Stone fruits like peaches, cherries, and plums are self-pollinating, which means they're a-okay to be planted solo. If you want apples, you need more than one tree and don't even think of slacking off with them because the second they fall to the ground they'll ferment. Why is this bad? It's bad because you'll get not only drunken squirrels but drunken hornets. Another reason to not get these unless you have bags of time or more than one child to do the grunt work, apple harvesting ruins a lot of free time. Where the heck are you going to store all those apples? Do you know how to store apples? Get peaches instead, which - with proper care - will repay you with glorious fruits that can be preserved with ease. And did you know you can make tea from blossom, peel, and pit? It's a big investment to get a tree that's large and mature enough to give you fruit the same year you plant it in your yard (about $150) but I yielded a decent harvest my first year, enough to justify the first initial cost. Plus, nothing beats a blossoming tree in the spring for your soul.



Asparagus
I've been growing this thing for about 7 years now and just last year was I able to get four or five spears worth eating. When you grow asparagus, you quickly realize why the heck it's so expensive. Or maybe you don't? See, asparagus needs a dedicated patch to work. Nothing else can grow in that patch. This plant is bought in what's known as a crown, that will be planted six inches below ground and thusly spread out as it grows. You do need to add and compost and do all that fun permaculture stuff to it every year but you can't use that patch or transplant it anywhere else once established without difficulty. Asparagus yields only a few spears per season depending on how big the patch is. Think about that if you were a farmer, paying rent on your land, uncertain that you'd even get a crop in the 5 years it takes to grow from crown to be big enough to sell? You'll quickly learn why it takes so much time and effort to grow asparagus, and so for that reason, I don't recommend it for a quarantine garden.




Spinach
I absolutely love this green and couldn't say more to its virtues. Fast-growing and fabulous, you can grow spinach in an egg carton on your windowsill. Yes, it grows in shade! It's one of those incredible plants that you can only cut what you need and it will come back again and again. You know how a salad is nice and all, but you end up only eating a salad once or twice and then you stick that big plastic container of salad greens in your crisper drawer, and the grossness of the green sludge monster grows instead of your good intentions? Well, don't you dare worry! You can't do that when you only eat what you want from the spinach plant! Oh, and it's a plant that you can cook and freeze, so you'll get savory savings out of it. And don't even get me started on the smoothies you can make!



Blackberries
It's difficult when you have a large number of birds around, but there are few things as satisfying as going out to your blackberry bramble and eating off the berries. They're decently low maintenance and need a lot of unfiltered sunshine, but the best part is is that they seem to be bulletproof. Your harvest will depend on how well you fertilize and how you prune and care for it, and you mustn't forget to trim back the dead canes each year. I would definitely not buy a young plant, but opt for an older plant that has been hanging out at the garden center for a while. It'll be more expensive, but you will get much more out of your first harvest from a mature plant this way!



Peas
The masses may riot over what I have to say,  but I think they're a little more trouble than they're worth. I absolutely love peas but the trouble is that I never seem to get enough to harvest all at once to make into a meal. Maybe I'm not planting enough of them? They grow some very large tendrils which are very fun to draw and take pictures of. They do freeze perfectly but I must say that I'm almost certainly disappointed by my pea operation. That being said, they grow better in containers than they seem to do in planted beds. Who knew?



Potatoes
We've all seen those things on Pinterest claiming: "you can grow potatoes in a sack!" Well, no you can't. I've tried it a couple years in a row and the results are disappointing in proportion to the effort put in. I have heard from members of various permaculture groups I'm a part of that you can try it with different kinds of potatoes. It is my opinion, though, that if you do grow potatoes, it ought to be done outside in a raised bed. What's great about potatoes is that they're impossibly easy to grow. If you care for these plants, they'll repay you tenfold. I especially love them because you can store them forever and they seldom go bad in the root cellar (or basement, to you and me). If you don't have a root cellar and get a big potato crop, just cook them and freeze them - they freeze just fine and you'll do okay by them! But they are beautiful plants when they do grow and they'll give you a lot back. The trouble is they take time to grow, so I don't know how well they'd do in your victory garden for now. They're not fast growers, but they're worth it in the fall.

The dog is definitely not included when you grow beans. You can't have this dog. He's my baby.
Beans
I love bush and pole beans, and I think they should rank high on your things to grow! They're so easy, they grow very quickly and virulently, and you have many options with them. You can pick the tender pods soon and cook them then, or let them all go to seed and then have dry beans for later eating or later planting. I really like Kentucky Butter Beans for my zone, as they've got a mild flavor and will grow in a heartbeat. Perfect for a Victory Garden!



Strawberries
Perrenial and beautiful, these are wonderfully satisfying. I think they do well in containers but they do just fine outdoors in my temperate climate. What's better the leaves turn a gorgeous bright red when cold or frozen! You must mulch them to make sure they're fine over winter, but gosh they are worth it. Even better, they make their own transplants, so you can sell or give away plants to friends lest you get a giant strawberry patch in your backyard. As far as berries go, I'd say that you'll only get a few here and there unless you have a large number of plants and a healthy dose of good luck for getting to them before the birds do. All that being said, there's just something beautiful about a strawberry plant. The flowers are fragrant and wonderful so they'll attract more pollinators to your garden for the other things! I've never really gotten enough to make a whole large pie, but definitely enough to make some turnovers.



Tomatoes
Okay so let's be real - how much do you ACTUALLY eat tomatoes? Answer this honestly, because otherwise, you'll just be growing something for nothing. Canning tomatoes can be a lot of fun, but it'll take a long time if you don't have a pressure cooker!  Also, remember what you'll be planning for. If you're like me and you love all tomatoes that are super colorful and interesting and eating them raw or grilled on a salad, then go nuts. But if you ever want a tomato sauce it's going to be gross-looking if you use anything other than bright red tomatoes. With all of that being said, one of my favorite smells are tomato plants! Heirloom tomatoes especially grow very well once you get them established, and will often produce quite a lot, especially if you get the cherry variety. You can also dry them and preserve them in cans or oils. Green tomatoes in a pickle brine are awesome, too. Be sure to get heirloom seeds, and be sure to plant many different kinds in your garden if you do go the tomato route!

My cat's name is Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkins
These babies take a lot of room and you're not always guaranteed to get a good pumpkin out there unless you can protect it with your life against squash beetles, rabbits, and more. These take quite a bit of land and effort, but the payout on a pumpkin patch is pretty darn worth it for the Instagram posts alone. Storage can be tricky, especially since they need coolness and space, so it's likely easier to just roast them, puree them, and freeze them so you have your own canned pumpkin puree for later! What's also good about pumpkins is that you can eat the leaves! They're super high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and more. The one thing about these is that you have to be incredibly vigilant about pest control, otherwise it's all gone to waste really quickly.

This was my "per diem" harvest for a few weeks.
Cucumbers
If I were to pick a bumper crop for any kind of Victory Garden, I'd definitely choose a cucumber. First off, they're fast growers. Second, they produce like no tomorrow. Third, they take up considerably less space than pumpkins or other winter squash do, and - as far as I personally have seen - are generally resistant to disease or pest. I have picked a few slugs and bugs off my cucumber plants, but it never stopped them from producing. Versatile in culinary and prepping ways, you can eat raw, juice, pickle, and braise cucumbers. One summer I got so many I didn't know what to do, and that was only from one or two plants. Make sure you get a small variety, though, as the ones that produce larger fruits will take up more room and - if you have them hanging on a trellis - might make it too heavy for the poor dears.



Watermelon
I've tried for years to get watermelons to grow, all with devastating results. If you live in a warm climate and can tend to these, please go for it and tell me how it goes. It just seems too dang cold up here in middle America for me to get it right. I'm trying again this year so wish me luck. But for a victory garden with no experience? I would not recommend.

This wasn't even my tallest sunflower.

Sunflowers
You want these in your Victory Garden not just because they're nice to look at but because they're incredible for attracting pollinators. Birds, bees, butterflies, and more will come flocking to these amazing towers of floral achievement like you won't believe. Good luck getting seeds out of them, but you'll love the leaves. Yes, the leaves can be eaten! You can dry them and steep them for tea, or boil them like spinach, or bake them to make crunchy chips. I also love these because they show you exactly where the sunniest parts of your garden are. If you plant a few of them at different intervals, you'll see which place in the garden gets the sunniest, the hottest, all by which ones grow the tallest. It's not exactly perfect for the short-term, but the long game playing will be good

I actually forgot to get photos of the plant. Sorry.
Chamomile
Grow this in your quarantine garden because it's a fast grower, you're going to get a high and continuous yield, and you're going to want chamomile tea for your nerves. Seriously, there's not a lot of stuff that's more satisfying than making your herbal tea blends.

This is apple mint, dried in the microwave, next to its fresh friends!
Mint
Mint is a controversial flavor, often described as "cool spicy". I tell you this, though, that I planted mint once five years ago and it has literally never stopped growing. It'll get out of control if you let it grow. It will also help prevent mosquitos and other annoying stingy insects near you, so bless. And mint tea is fantastic. And mint in other spice blends is fantastic. If you sneeze while you have mint-flavored gum in your mouth, it grows where you sneezed. That's how easily and quickly it grows. And prolifically.



Sage
Frost tolerant and attracts pollinators, as it's part of the salvia family. It's got a very unique sort of pungent flavor, but is incredibly fragrant and will add an autumnal touch to your dishes. This ever-bearing herb takes up very little space and will give you a lot of good stuff once dried



Lemon Thyme
This is one of those herbs that can over-winter in the right conditions and give you some ever-bearing stuff and helps keep mosquitos away. It's easy to grow, helps you add flavor to whatever you're doing, and is versatile. Win-win?

Please forgive me the truly abhorrent lighting in this photo
Garlic
This is great for a long term thing, but I wouldn't plant it in a victory garden if the idea is quick stuff. You can harvest it when it's just sprouting and starting to leaf out for what's known as green garlic but if you plant in the fall you won't get anything until June or July. You can plant garlic now in the spring for a very late harvest, but for whatever reason, garlic just seems to do better after there's been a hard frost like they've been in the refrigerator underground. One year I had so much garlic that I had to hang it in a braid by the door and ate off of it for about four months. They're great growers, but it might be a little late to plant them right now for a victory garden.