Thursday, August 16, 2012

Everything is peachy

This peach tree which was planted in the chicken yard 3 years ago, has grown so fast that the branches are bowed over and almost lay on the ground.  Early on in the season I tried removing the fruit so that they were all a hand's breadth apart. This should allow for bigger, healthier fruit. Looking at it now that the fruit is larger, I see that I wasn't very diligent.  There are many areas of clumps of fruit. I also failed to prune the tree, resulting in too much growth.  I read recently that if the branches are bowed too much it releases a hormone that prevents the tree from fruiting next year.  I was so excited at how much it had grown, I didn't want to prune it.  Ahh well, live and learn.   
In order to grow anything in the chicken yard I wrap chicken wire in large circle around the base to prevent the girls from scratching and killing the roots.  I have great luck growing anise hyssop, which smell wonderful and the hens don't like to eat.  As long as the base is protected it grows great. It is very drought tolerant as well. 
(The first photo is not from my garden, it's just a great shot of hyssop)


Those are the hyssops in the background, they have gotten quite a bit larger since this picture

Here you can see that these peaches are not a hand's breadth apart.  It is hard to tell from the photos but many of the peaches are tiny. 

There are still many big fat juicy ones though, just in time to start making peach pies!   I use Martha Stewart's wonderful Pate Brisee pie crust recipe and Cooks Illustrated's filling.  
First you blanch the peaches for easy peeling.  (This works amazing well.)  Then pit and slice them, and toss them with lemon juice sugar and a pinch of salt.  I used less than half the sugar and it still tasted a little on the sweet side.
Cooks Illustrated has tested out several ways to create the perfect filling, juicy but not too runny.  It tested flour, tapioca corn starch and potato starch added to the peaches for thickening.  They concluded that potato starch is by far the best with crushed tapioca second.  I didn't have any potato starch on hand and although it is not the same thing, I used potato flour. 

The photo does not do this pie justice.  It is amazing served warm with vanilla ice cream, or with a pinch of heavy cream drizzled over the top. Perfection! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The moment we've all been waiting for.....

That's right, the long awaited San Maranzano's are ready. (and a brandywine or two). I spent the morning in the garden picking tomatoes and trying to manage the tangle of plants.  I cut out tons of the dreaded borage, tied up some slumping sunflowers,  and now can see what is in my raised beds.  
I picked over 5 lbs of San Maranzano's.

 This year we are slow roasting them (200 degrees for 12-12 hours) with a bit of olive oil, dried basil salt and garlic. Then they can be used for recipes or frozen for up to 6 months.  They fill the house with the most intoxicating aroma.  I also roasted mushrooms, eggplant and zucchini to toss over warm pasta for dinner tonight.  Unfortunately I got called into work tonight and won't be able to enjoy this with my family tonight, but I hope to enjoy these throughout the winter. 


Friday, August 3, 2012

Crazy Gardener

Fin peeping through tomatoes and sunflowers

I am obviously a more-is-better kind of gardener.  I can not seem to pull out anything that is green and alive including some weeds.  I love jungle feeling I get from a closely packed garden.  
A few weeks ago friends visited us from Tucson.  Dry, desert-y Tucson. When the family headed out to our back yard my friend turned to me and said concernedly "Diane, this looks like a crazy old woman's garden!"  
Not "Wow, what talented gardener created this lush garden?"  Not "Wow, what an abundance of fresh food you must have." 
Just a crazy old woman's garden.  Crazy?  Old?? 
Of course I went through the various stages of grief. Denial, anger, depression and then finally acceptance. Yes, perhaps my borage is a little bit out of control, and yes sunflowers and holly locks are coming up in the middle of the few walking paths are still passable, but they are flowers after all.    
Today when I made a scrambled egg on bread with thick slices of Brandywine tomato, mayo with fresh chives, I didn't care one smidgen about being a crazy old gardener.     


Borage.  Do not plant this plant unless you would like it around in abundance for years to come

Volunteer Holly Hocks

Raised beds with flowers around outside