This is winter??

Going back a week: 70 degrees on Christmas Day and the daffodils think it’s spring. Weeds too:

xmas daffodils

We still had food to harvest in the garden (and there’s more to cone!):

xmas harvest

And the birds seemed equally confused about where they should be. Watch hundreds of — crows? –as they moved in a pack, lifting off almost simultaneously with a big whoosh and moving from yard to yard. They’re now gone.

birds preview

Heck, I was confused! The state shattered the record for warmest December ever by more than five degrees.

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The last of 2013

december vegetables 001A sunny day, so the Brit cleared out the raised beds today. Our final harvest of 2013: About two dozen stubby orange carrots no longer than 4 1/2 inches (but more often the length of baby carrots), oversized, foot-and-a-half leeks that came to us as seedlings from Ohio and a bowl full of kale.

The beds are now empty (aside from where we planted garlic for 2014 a month ago) and covered with leaves to keep the soil from getting compacted and to restore some nutrients to the mix as they break down.

With winter here, it’s time to flip through the seed catalogs that have started arriving and coming up with a plan for 2014. Any favorites to recommend?

Last harvest

The forecast for tonight is a low of 34 or 33, and tomorrow night’s low is supposed to be 33. Winter is closing in on us, and it is getting too cold to risk some of our vegetables. And our Portuguese hot pepper plants were just bursting!

So out I went into the cold (it feels colder than 48!) and harvested three dozen of those red peppers. Those alone filled a good-sized mixing bowl! And that’s before the unripened ones, the last of the deep green jalapenos and the ripe orange and unripe light green habaneros.

A bowl of red hot peppers

I’m not sure how we’re going to use them. Freeze them? Try to make a red hot pepper jam? A recipe I saw uses more sweet red peppers than hot ones, so I won’t blow off my head — I hope. Or maybe I’ll try this one? Apparently I can also use green peppers, or maybe I’ll try those that didn’t finish turning red and which one store sells for about the same price as green. There is no shortage of hot: We still have part of an earlier crop in the fridge and had a friend dehydrate and grind others.

I also picked up this carrot — or should I say carrots that have grown together into one mass? Not sure how we’ll eat this!

mega mangled carrot

In, too, came a lot of citrus-y basil for some quick pesto.

The red Swiss chard can handle a light frost, so I left that. I harvested a few greens but I’m hoping the rest can handle any coolness. For good measure, I took an old blue tent cover hanging around in the garage and threw it on top of the caged bed to protect the plants just before nightfall. Sorry about the poor lighting!

covering a raised bed

Just a shame about all the yellow flowers on the last of the tomato plants. They will never get enough time to turn into fruit.

Now to find time to start planting next year’s garlic harvest.

Our New Favorite Carrot Recipe

We are getting to that never-ending phase of harvesting, and the stubby carrots that the Brit packed in super-closely are one of this year’s success stories.

Even better is how we have chosen to eat them: grilled, with a chipotle drizzle pulled from a book borrowed from the library called The Gardener and the Grill (personally, I thought the title captured two of the Brit’s summer interests). This has become my new go-to sauce for various vegetables and even meat, and am thinking of using it for a cold noodle salad. So far I’ve made it without the cilantro/coriander.

garden carrots, with drizzle and a roasted cayenne pepper from the garden

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 canned chipotle chili in adobe sauce (I misread this at first and was about to dump in the entire can!)
1 large garlic clove
1/3 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons of honey
2/3 cup canola oil (I’m thinking just 1/3)
fine kosher or sea salt to taste

Put everything in the food processor, process until emulsified. Then transfer to a jar with a lid. It will keep in the refrigerator for a week.

We made another batch today with a fresh harvest in all shapes and sizes.

On the grill they went, using an old pie tin to keep the smaller ones from falling through the grate.

Then on a plate with a jar of drizzle. Yum!

Orange Success

We’ve finally succeeded in growing carrots!

The Brit bought a short, stubby variety called Zanahoria, advertised as short ‘n sweet, figuring that our soil was getting loamier but that long carrots are harder to grow. Short these were, but we found them more nutty than sweet. Of course, there’s also packed in a little too tightly, in my humble opinion. For whatever reason, the Brit opted for rows across the bed (that he didn’t thin out) rather than our usual square-foot gardening technique.

Nonetheless, some of today’s harvest:

More carrots are still in the ground. Maybe he’ll slowly thin them out ’til they are all gone and he fills the space with parsnips. In the meantime, we are looking for ways to use the carrot greens. Any suggestions? Tonight some were mixed into a black rice and white bean salad,