Midsummer kitchen garden: update

For every perfect tomato we pick we find another half eaten. We assumed it was squirrels until stumbling upon the actual culprit - a mouse! A brave little mouse who continued to chomp away as we stood beside him with the accusing beam of our flash light baring down on him. So while the above harvest looks good it's a little disappointing that there were really twice as many but half had to be thrown away.

A few tomatoes will become BLTs, more will go into a panzanella I'm bringing to a cook out tomorrow and most will be canned. We're planning to roast and stuff the peppers. 

Life at home

Life in Grant Park, Atlanta. Summer 2014. Our almost century old home is half way between the Braves stadium (leaving) and the Cyclorama (leaving) with an amazing view of the downtown skyline. A lot of people might be surpised that everything you see below is living and growing in the center (literally) of one of the Southeast's largest cities. 

This summer our urban "homestead" includes:
• 4 Ameraucanas
• 3 Silkies
• Peppers: Thai, Poblano & Red
• Tomatoes: grape & several heirloom varieties
• Corn (not shown)
• Strawberries (not shown)
• Eggplant (not shown)

Early summer kitchen garden: update

Four years of garden updates have accumulated into my own personal farmer's almanac. Which is great because it's helpful to know what I planted when and how successful that timing was. Three summers ago I planted my strawberries. The first two summers were lack luster, but this summer, this summer the plant is finally producing hearty and plentiful strawberries! Fingers crossed the chipmunks stay away...

Homegrown radishes

Six weeks ago we planted radish seeds in the front garden. And according to the packet I should've picked them three weeks ago - opps! I suppose that explains why you can see them BURSTING from the soil. These radishes are the MOST peppery radishes I have ever tasted. They taste more like horseradish then radish. To cut the intensity (and make them edible) I'm going to mix them with chick peas to create a hummus with an extra kick! 

Time flies when you're....

If I manage to write this post in under an hour then I'll be able to say it's only been a month since I last checked in.  For the first time in three years I've been too busy too go to the gym regularly or make time for my weekly trip to Your DeKalb Farmers Market. Folks - if you know me, you know skipping those lifestyle commitments is a HUGE deal. So what gives? Festivals, party planning, costume making and print designs. Yet despite the hectic schedule, I haven't been this proud to be an Atlantan since 1996. 

Anyone who has lived in the city of Atlanta  (proper, not 'burbs)  knows that Atlantans LIVE for their spring and fall festivals. For me, fall festival season started 3 days after I planted the late summer garden. First there was the Decatur BBQ, Blues & Bluegrass Fest; a week later was Grant Park's Summer Shade Fest and the following weekend is what I'm officially declaring "the best weekend to be in Atlanta" - LABOR DAY WEEKEND! 

My Labor Day weekends in Atlanta are highlighted by my bicycle. Everything we do for three days is within biking distance:  Braves game Thursday or Friday night. Dragon*Con Parade Saturday morning always followed by lunch with friends at Elliot Street Tavern in Castleberry Hill before heading to the Georgia Dome to check out SEC Football kick-off weekend tailgates. Saturday night, Sunday and Monday are chocked full of unusually awesome party options. Our 2013 Labor Day weekend was so perfect that it was impossible to imagine the next weekend was going to be even better.

The following Saturday was both the Porter's 5th anniversary and the Beltline Lantern Parade. Sunday, Street's Alive and the NFL kick-off game between the Falcons and Saints. Saturday morning I woke up early to finish costumes for the the #GothMoths, then I put those costumes and my bike into our pick-up truck. I drove to Cabbagetown where I dropped off the costumes. Next I drove to Midtown, dropped off the truck, hopped onto my bike and took the Beltline to Little Five Points just in time for the Porter's 5th Anniversary. A few hours later: Little Five Points to Inman Park where we met up with the #GothMoths and participated in the jaw dropping Beltline Lantern Parade. At the end of the Beltline everyone hopped into the truck (which I'd purposely left in Midtown earlier in the day) and headed back to our side of the city. Sunday my Mom joined me for the Bicycle Parade along Peachtree Street. That night was the Grant Park Neighborhood Association monthly meeting - which leads me to the next part of being so busy.

I'm quite flattered and proud to say that I'm now the VP of Fundraising for Grant Park - my primary role being the subcommittee Chair of the annual MothBall celebration. When I accepted the nomination I anticipated party planning; I did not expect the world of contracts and licenses and meetings and notes that followed!! Regardless, this has been an invaluable learning experience and I look forward to sharing more of the details - when I have time!! If you don't already like gpMothBall on Facebook please do so now; it means a lot (read: too much) to me!

(More Dragon*Con parade photos on our FB page!)


Thai Chicken Satay Salad with Peanut Sauce Dressing

If you don't know what Thai chicken satay is - look it up*! Because it is DELICIOUS!! Last night we ate it on skewers hot off the grill with a side of homegrown grilled eggplant and YDFM sweet potato. Tonight we enjoyed it on a bed of lettuce with home grown red peppers and tomatoes. Oliver's peanut sauce accompanied both meals. YUM!

*Yes, this is me losing patience with writing copy for meals I didn't cook (read: don't know how cook) but LOVED eating.

Sunday morning in the garden

By the time the Grant Park Farmers Market opens at 9:30 we've already been up for at least an hour. This morning we spent time in the garden. Our tomatoes are finally too tall for their stakes so we decided to cut them off at 10 ft. Pumpkin blossoms are appearing on the pumpkin vine. The leeks are getting fat. Green peppers are turning red and there are almost a dozen eggplants between two plants. While Oliver cooked bacon I ran down to the GPFM and picked up some goat cheese made Friday on a farm just 10 miles away. Breakfast was omelets with veggies from the garden, fresh goat cheese and a side of bacon. 

Dinner from the garden

Thursday night Oliver made dinner from ingredients we had on hand. An onion, garlic, olive oil and box of pasta from the pantry. Plus three tomatoes, a green bell pepper, a red chili pepper, basil, oregano, thyme and parsley all picked fresh from the garden. 

*Fancy Beer Friday will be posted tomorrow (Saturday)! Check back to read about Friday night at Redbrick Brewing Company and their soon to be released 17th Anniversary Ale.  

Summer garden harvest

Tonight I picked two eggplants and three heirloom tomatoes. These are the same tomatoes that I photographed and posted on Saturday. Four consecutive days of thunderstorms and the subsequent soggy ground has caused these tomatoes to split their skins in a few places. No worries though, I'm sure they still taste fine. I've already roasted the eggplants and mashed them with tahini, lemon, cumin and garlic. That along with a piece of H&F bread (from the Grant Park Farmers Market) will be tomorrow's lunch. 

A perfect homegrown tomato

This tomato* is exactly why I grow my own tomatoes. It's vine ripened, a luscious red color throughout and there isn't a trace of white/pink tasteless Styrofoam texture. Every bite is delicious. No ethylene gas ripened tomatoes for me. I'd rather wait all year for this!

Some reading material for those interested in learning more tomatoes:
Why supermarket tomatoes tend to taste bad - LA TIMES
Taking tomatoes back to their tasty roots - NPR
Perfect tomatoes come from unhurried biochemistry - VegetableGarden.com

*This tomato is from our Beefsteak plant. I'm looking forward to seeing how the larger heirlooms compare.

Meals from the garden

The weather may be outrageously hot, but it's still a wonderful time of year to have a vegetable garden. For us Sunday marked the beginning of BLT (bacon, lettuce & tomato) season. To make this season opening, mouthwateringly delicious, sandwich we picked tomatos from two of our heirloom plants. The sourdough bread was fresh from the H&F booth at the Grant Park Farmers Market. Bacon and lettuce from YDFM. This sandwich was PERFECTION! I'm looking foward to more throughout the season. 

For this evening's dinner we picked our two giant eggplants. They were mixed them with pole beans, small potatoes, red peppers, curry paste and coconut milk for a super spicey curry. 
I'd write more - but our Peachtree Road Race costumes are beckoning. I've decided to add pockets to my toga and the draw string in Oliver's Uncle Sam pants need mending. One more day til the big race! YAY! Keep an eye out for us if you plan to be there too.

Dinner from the garden: first cabbage!

Hooray! Three months of dedication have led to my first harvested cabbage! A 5 pounder at that. It was chopped into jalapeno coleslaw and used to top Oliver's grilled Amberjack tacos. Since we had company over for dinner Oliver broke out fancy beer for dessert too (Founders CBS is divine).

Today is a very good day. Hoping you all can say the same. XO - Cullen 

Korean inspired dinner from the garden

For dinner tonight we enjoyed homegrown lettuce filled with dry brined, oven roasted, pork topped with Oliver's homemade sauces (sweet chili and ginger scallion). We ate in the backyard because it's quite hot in the house but it's also too early in the year to turn on the AC. Side note: On Facebook I keep seeing these photos of my Chicago and Boston friends bundled up in gloves and hoodies. It's hard to believe it's not already summertime all over the USA. To those people, enjoy the rest of your winter gardens! I believe this is the very last of ours. Onwards to summertime foods! 

Wednesday leftovers

The left overs from last night's dinner were reassembled for tonight's stir-fry dinner. This time the green's came from the last the bok choy growing in our backyard (it was flowering - hence the pretty garnish).  Dessert was Greek yogurt with cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and berries. Lunch was a salad of bibb lettuce (picked this morning from our garden) with a delicious homemade sesame ginger dressing. For breakfast we enjoyed steel cut oatmeal with yellow raisins and walnuts. On my way from work to kickboxing I ate a banana. And in the spirit of truthfulness: I ate about 20 Jolly Rancher flavor jelly beans at work... I'm only human! - Cullen