Alliums to Zinnias: a journey of two New Jersey Gardeners

Jam from my neighbor’s pear tree
September 28, 2015, 5:28 pm
Filed under: food, recipe | Tags: ,

sonia's pearsA neighbor has a dwarf pear tree (Keiffer semi-dwarf, to be precise) that has been pretty prolific this year, and she kindly told me to help myself.

I tried not to be too greedy, but I did get enough to make this pear ginger jam and then share it with her. She pronounced it awesome, so I guess it’s one I’ll be making again (especially if she keeps offering up pears).

Here’s the recipe for pear and ginger preserves, from “Canning for a new generation; Bold, fresh flavors for the modern pantry” by Liana Krissoff:

3 pounds pears, peeled, cored and diced (about 7 cups). I can’t remember my neighbor’s variety, but it’s not the usual kind you find at the store. And they were pretty hard.

3 tablespoons finely diced fresh ginger (I’m lazy — I just grated a big chunk, more than 3 tablespoons)

grated zest of 1 lemon (oops, I skipped)

3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice (I cheated and used bottled lemon juice)

1 1/2 cups sugar (I liked that it was so little)

Put a small plate in the freezer.

Prepare jars.

Put all the ingredients in a wide preserving pan (ok, a big pot). Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pears are very soft and translucent (these pears were so firm that I took a potato masher to them, leaving some texture) and a small dab of the jam spooned onto the chilled plate becomes somewhat firm (it will not gel), 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir gently for a few seconds to distribute the fruit in the liquid.

Ladle the hot jam in the jars in the usual way, water-bath for 5 minutes, make sure seal pops… Done.

I just discovered Liana Krissoff has a blog, though it looks like she struggles to keep it going. Just like most of us.

The garden before the black-eyed susans take over

The black-eyed susans are starting their annual invasion. This year the phlox are showing signs of spreading too, despite some mildew and munching by the deer. And those coneflowers!

Bees are happy, butterflies are happy, hummingbirds are happy. I’m happy!

Some shots on what is supposed to be a scorcher of a day:

butterfly on coneflower 2

phlox front

phlox and day lily

phlox and black-eyed susans

phlox, coneflower, butterfly

The lovely crocosmia are now in three or four spots, and they need to be divided again this fall (well, some of those baby bulbs dug out with fingers?).

crocosmia july 19 2015 002

crocosmia july 19 2015 006


side bed with red, red, white

Dividing the amsonia (below)  could add the feathery leaf structure to another spot. More phlox (white!)  needed in the center of the long front bed. Daisies from the side bed could work too.

divide the amsonia in the fall

And I WILL break up the black-eyed susans into sections, promise!


Weekend harvest
July 12, 2015, 7:04 pm
Filed under: garden, vegetables | Tags: , , ,

First tomatoes of the season (nicely hidden), plus broccoli and shallots. A couple of hot red peppers. Oh yeah, zucchini too.

first tomatoes of 2015

broccoli 2015

shallots 2015


What to do with 5 zucchini???
July 6, 2015, 6:55 pm
Filed under: flood, garden, vegetables | Tags:

5 zucchiniThe glut has arrived.

I’ve harvested five oversized zucchini from the garden in the last few day (and I think there was a sixth that we grilled). Now I need to decide what to do with them.

Zucchini bread? Chocolate zucchini bread? Even better, chocolate zucchini cake?

Work them into a lasagna I need to make for Friday night?

I’m taking suggestions.

My sister-in-law just told me about a spiralizer/Veggetti that turns (normal-sized zucchini) into spaghetti with a few twists of the wrist. Could I use a mandolin to slice mine finely, then cut them into fatter-than-spaghetti strips and make a version of Pad Thai?

Veggies in the garden
June 24, 2015, 7:12 pm
Filed under: garden, vegetables | Tags: , ,

The tomato plants are shooting up and the first Indigo tomatoes are ripening. Zucchini flowers are warning that a glut is on the way. And the walking onions bend and twist as their seeds mature and create another generation.

Indigo tomato

zucchini june 2015

walking onion june 2015

Mid-June in the garden

I’m looking out the window and seeing rabbits in a neighbor’s yard. Just don’t let me see the groundhog! We have at least two, and they have done enough damage in the raised beds.

Still, tomato plants are generally thriving, and I’m hopeful we’ll have some early ones in time for the Fourth of July. Zucchini and potato plants are shooting up. My favorite flower, rose campion, is blooming, as is another favorite, red-hot poker (a little late, I think, but then spring was late and started off cool). And I’m excited about this new red-yellow Rudbeckia that blooms much earlier than the traditional yellow black-eyed Susan. I’m guessing it comes from one of two places where I plucked a flower head and then planted it. I’m hoping it spreads like crazy.

Here’s a look at some of what’s blooming in the garden just a few days before the official start of summer:

Yellow and red Rudbeckia

What a beaut!

red hot pokers

Rose campions are in lots of places:

Rose campion

Rose campion and coreopsis

Rose campion, coreopsis and tiger day lilies

Day lilies above and below:

red daylily

Hope this spreads too

stella d'oro daylilies

The first of the many coneflowers to come:


A faded allium:


A new addition to the hosta collection:

hosta late may new kind

Greens from the garden
December 7, 2014, 5:01 pm
Filed under: fall, garden, vegetables | Tags: , ,

It’s Dec. 6. We had a dusting of snow just before Thanksgiving — thankfully it didn’t stick. This week will be the last time the township collects leaves and yard debris until March, so we did our best to send them off with a few big piles (and that’s after the really big pile of leaves turning into compost behind the forsythia at the back of the yard).

But what’s still growing in the cold frame?

Baby greens.

dec 6 2014 003


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