Friday, July 20, 2012

Cool As A Cucumber Trellis

There's a bit of a lull in the garden right now. Summer crops are taking the heat and promising their bounty, greens continue rotating, and some fall seeds have been sown. Days are devoted to watering and pest control, don't get me going on the latter. Suffice to say that I must make a daily meditation of affirming Beauty in a world where I must hunt down and take out critters of all types. Ah, you carve out a slice of heaven pie and everyone wants a little piece. Pests, like crazy people who shoot off guns in movie theatres, cannot be eradicated, only managed wisely.

So I will keep it cool and share my cucumber trellising strategy. My favorites are Persian, their seeds may be hard to come by and they take some babying initially, but well worth it. They like to climb slightly so I designed and constructed some props to help them along. Having been a weaver, I approached the trellises like a warp and woof, laying out 6' poles of bamboo found at the local garden store, then spread nylon netting (with large holes for harvesting hands - also from garden store) over the top. I pulled it all together at the intersections with rot resistant zip ties. The result is aesthetically pleasing, lightweight yet structurally strong, stores easily during the off season, and versatile for other creepers like beans and peas. 

Depending on the angle you balance the frame, you can create growing space underneath for shade loving crops like lettuce. Bean cages can be planted in back of them, creating valuable vertical garden real estate and maximising sunshine for all. I balanced this trellis over the walls of the bed and an empty bean cage. The vines grow up and over the trellis and cage, then down the heat holding stone retaining wall. The cucumbers drop underneath for easy pickins.
Pretty cool, huh?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Still Life With Kolrabi


Shortest Recipe For Kolrabi Ever

Monday, July 16, 2012


Monday, July 2
harvest for chef
cut back rustic arugula, Long Bed
cut back sorrel, Magnolia Bed,Top Beds
Tuesday, July 3
clean up morning, Top Beds, cut back bulbs, ivy, oleander, bay
turn and amend Top Bed for lettuce planting
harvest first kolrabi,snip off flowers of cilantro
take down peas, Bed 2, turn and amend for planting
start Romanesco zukes in 6 packs
Darryl here fixing irrigation, clean up, take home volunteer lambs quarters
Wednesday, July 4
got gopher in kolrabi
Thursday, July 5
planting salad for wedding reception, Sept. 1
seed plant lettuce, sassy mix, shaker method, on top, cover
seed plant lettuce, last of Valentine mix in Bed 2, cover
seed plant tuscan kale, home seed, 1 row/Bed 2, cover
seed plant arugula, Bed 1-between artichokes, Edge2-between onions and cukes, cover
scatter arugula seed under sunflowers, Kitchen Bed, no cover
thin arugula in lower Cherry Bed, plant out in upper Cherry Bed
plant bamboo grass under new stairs where it leaks
Saturday, July7
houseguests, harvest first beans, yellow and green haricot vert
Monday, July 9
harvest for chef, first kolrabi, celery
first tomato! Stupice
Tuesday, July 10
plant out parsley starts in Long Bed
seed start in 6 packs, 4 kinds of Kale, all season broccoli and year round cauliflower
Wednesday, July 11
very hot, Randall here, cut back wisteria, plant kiwis
shuffle around water systems off kitchen
Thursday, July 12
still hot, tinkering with sprinklers
clean up flower beds, thin out arugula in Kitchen Bed and replant
Friday, July 13
thin arugula in Edge 2 and Cherry Beds, plant thinnings into Experimental Bed
Sunday, July 14
take down last of English peas, saving seed
gopher got pumpkin in Sam Bed, grrrrrr
keeping up with watering new starts
Monday, July 15
harvest for chef
landscape area between Scott and Sam Beds
plant out Opal basil in pots, in Kitchen Bed and cloche
plant our Thai basil in pots, cloche on deck
plant out 2nd rotation of Romanesco Zucchinis, Gabe Bed right
fertilized 1st rotation of zukes with fish a few days ago, resulted in lots of male flowers and no fruit, thinking I should have used a blooming fertilizer...
Tuesday, July 16
still coldish and foggy mornings
seed start 2 lettuce mixes in shady and wet areas, Edge 2, Wall 2, Long Bed, Top, no cover
2nd planting of beans (Blue Lake, Green and Yellow Harc, Purple bush) 4" pots on deck, no cover
start dog intervention
go over boardwalk way with Jimmy
seed plant cilantro inbetween parsley in Long Bed
replant Russian kale, direct seed into barren six packs
Wednesday, July 17
all about pest control, flies in the house, trapped 2 gophers
Friday, July 20
thin Tuscan Kale seedlings (home seed) in Bed 2, transplant into 1/2 gallon pots, leave in potting shed
clean Rustic Arugula (home seed), broadcast between flowers in big pots on bedroom deck
Monday, July 23
Harvest for chef
thin arugula in Edge 2 and Bed 2
Am in NYC For Granny Duty until August 6

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Zucchini Chronicles, The Final Chapter: National Zucchini Day - Let Them Eat Chocolate Zucchini Cake

About time to wrap this zucchini business and move on. But an epilogue, like a good meal, would not be complete without dessert, and a story to go with it. Long story short; There were summers I spent in Eastern Washington, working on an organic farm on the banks of the upper Columbia River. The owners, dear friends and fellow back to the landers, acquired the property in 1973. Years of hard work later, they have an organic cannery, make award winning sulfite-free organic wine, and run a Bed and Breakfast. Visit them @
China Bend

My job involved a right hand in everything from soup to nuts. The best moments were out standing in the field yukking it up with my co-workers. Farming is hard work, but a good sense of humor always kept the crew in check. With so much to do in a day, comic relief often came to the rescue. In a moment of frivolous inspiration we declared National Zucchini Day. A potluck dinner was proposed to celebrate, BYOZ, you got it - bring your own zucchini. A contest for the best dish ensued, with prizes for the winner. We were a noncompetitive bunch at heart, but ready to roll with a good natured challenge to surprise and outwit your friends. It could have been just another 100 degree day on the funny farm, but an extra buzz twinkled in the air. Someone coined "Zukes not Nukes" and we ran with it.

The dinner was spectacular with enough cold estate chardonnay to keep us from getting too parched. Some dishes hit the mark, other didn't. In the end you can't make an old zuke do new tricks. The winner of the zucchini-palooza called in last, Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Just the thought of it will make the closed minded moan and groan, but trust me, this is an exceptionally rich and moist cake.  Guaranteed, your guests will rave, and if they don't ask, you don't tell.

Marge's Chocolate Zucchini Cake
a recipe from the wine makers mother

1 cup butter, creamed
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sour milk (sour it with a squirt of lemon)
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons cocoa (or 1/2 cup melted chocolate chips)
2 cups zucchini, grated
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. (If substituting melted chocolate chips for cocoa add them now.) Sift the flour, soda, baking powder, cinnamon and cocoa. Stir into the butter mixture along with the milk. Beat until smooth. Drop in the nuts and fold in the zucchini. Pour into a buttered 9x13" pan and sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Bake in preheated (325 degrees) oven for 40-45 minutes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Zucchini Chronicles, Part 4: Hot Zucchini Nights With Zucchini Patties

The garden plot thickens. What's not to love about the deluge of summer squash overflowing from their beds. Technically a fruit, zucchini is served like a vegetable. The succulent babies need minimal cooking to enhance their taste. Understate: light steaming, little salt, little olive oil or butter, good to go.

There are days however, when those petite zucchinis elude the daily pickings. One morning you discover the one that got away. Innocence is lost. That cute tender baby morphed into an awkward adolescent. You get distracted. Other life matters vie for the top of the "to do" list. Somewhere in the back of your mind you suspect the zucchini situation may be getting out of hand. Next thing you know those juniors have burst into bulbous big boys in poor taste. Even your best neighbors smile blankly and with glazed looks just say no to your free zukes.
Is that a zucchini in your pocket
or are you just happy to see me?
Summer nights get steamy. You can't sleep, tossing and turning with visions of those giant stalks yearning for attention. No rest for the weary gardener or the lusty quick witted cook. Appetites are whetted, earthy smells arouse the erotic imagination, fingers long to stroke the firm fruits, sliding their length into open lips hungry for stimulation...
Oh my, even if size doesn't matter, releasing all those creative juices can ignite a smokin' fantasy.

Hold your horses! I meant a food fantasy, those love pats turned to patties. Zucchini Patties, a basic recipe coming from a day dream in the middle of the night. A zesty dish intended to heighten gastronomic pleasure with plenty of room for improvisation. Bites whose size you can play to your own satisfaction, smaller for nibbles, larger for entrees. Toss in the odd lots of veggies and proteins occupying the erogenous zones in your fridge. Spice it up with a few tablespoons of finely chopped jalapenos. Douse with chipotles or hot salsa and bring on the sizzle.

Zucchini Patties
Jewish friends call them zucchini latkes
Serves 6

3 cups grated zucchini (or other summer squash)
1 midsized onion, minced
1 Tablespoon butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix squash and onion in a medium bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs, add flour and butter. Combine with the squash. Heat oil in a medium skillet, spoon the mixture in heaping teaspoons or quarter cups.  Cook until golden and flip. Drain on paper towels. Salt and pepper when hot.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Zucchini Chronicles, Part 3: Beer Battered Squash Blossoms with Honey Mustard

While foraging around in the zucchini zone, some zuke moments from the past came to mind. Back in the commune days, Beer Battered Squash Blossoms were my specialty dish for our annual parents party. Every August us counter-culture white kids of mostly Catholic and Jewish backgrounds would host our collective folks on our 350 acre Ranch in Washington State. Aside from some confusing paternal issues they were pretty good sports about our lifestyle or they just didn't show up. This was our best foot forward event, and what better way than with fresh organic food from our communal garden. Later, we upped this enthusiasm for growing and cooking to another level and hosted a Garlic Festival for 13 years, but that's another story...
I prepared this dish for 60-100 and it was never enough. Cooking outdoors behind our Sanctuary Tent, I got fried using an electric skillet with a built in thermometer. Blooms in batter went like hot cakes.

Beer Battered Squash Blossoms
Enough to coat about 2 cups of frying objects

Put in bowl and mix well:
1 1/3 cups all purpose or rice flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 T melted butter or vegetable oil
2 beaten egg yokes
Add gradually:
3/4 cup  flat beer
Allow batter to rest covered and refrigerated 3-12 hours Just before using, you may add
(2 stiffly beaten egg whites)

-Use vegetable oil only,1 inch deep in skillet,
Keep at 350 degrees
Dip dry flowers in batter and fry 2-3 minutes until golden, drain on paper towels, finish while hot with course salt
Dip in Honey Mustard Sauce* and let the blossom banquet begin!

Tip: In all recipes involving flour, measurements can only be approximate.The batter will adhere if it follows this test which my son, a brilliant chef and reflection of his food forward upbringing, explained to me.
Take a generous spoonful of batter and hold it above the mixing bowl. Instead of running from the spoon in a broad shining band, (a consistency the the French call au ruban,) the batter should run for about a 1/2 inch length, then drop in successive long triangular "splats." When the batter is this consistency, beat it until very smooth. Cover and let it sit refrigerated for at least two hours, even overnight. This resting period allows a fermentation which breaks down the rubberiness of the batter- further activated by the beer.

*The Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce is a no brainer.
 - choose your favorite mustard from the fridge ( I prefer spicy brown for my blossoms)
-mix it with equal parts honey and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Coming Soon! Hot Zucchini Nights and National Zucchini Day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Zucchini Chronicles, Part 2: Gluten Free Stuffed Squash Blossoms

These photos suck, not worth a thousand words. No apologies. Sometimes in the moment you are in San Fransisco cooking up a storm with family and forget your digital camera. Phone pics look so fuzzy. Oh well, we do what we can, on the fly is how we roll.

My pardner in food fun, Jon, has been gluten free for about 2 months and feeling remarkably better in his body. His sister, also a chef and gluten free convert, has taken everyday recipes to new gluten less heights, for more recipes and inspiration visit her at

We were so enamoured with the first squash blossoms, but too tired to go for the deep fat fritter fry/tempura production, so we baked.

The Stuffing:
Figure about 2 Tablespoons of stuffing per flower

-mix 1/2 parts ricotta and 1/2 parts goat cheese- the goat cheese gives it a nice bite, we used some that had herbs added, source your fridge for those goat cheesy leftovers scrunched up and almost forgotten. We've all been there...

-add chopped chives, fennel seeds, (the Shining Star of this recipe) lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste.

-spoon the cheese into the blossom,
 then twist the tips to close it.
-arrange the stuffed blossoms in an oiled pan

The Stuff:

-scramble enough eggs to cover the flowers, stir in some Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste.

-pour it on

-sprinkle the top with  !Ta-dah!  gluten free panko breadcrumbs,

-available at your gluten free friendly store, could also substitute ground nuts or seeds.

-bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, douse with olive oil for the last 5 if you likah more crunch

Next time I would use a bigger pan and arrange the flowers to present with more definition.
We just didn't have one, a serendipitous first attempt.
Stay tuned for Zucchini Chronicles, Part 3:
 Beer Battered Squash Blossoms With Honey Mustard

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Zucchini Chronicles, Part 1: Sex and the Single Zucchini

Catch of the Day

Here at Voss Gardens we grow only one type of summer squash, the best - Zucchini Romanesco. It thrives in our soil and growing conditions. I get my Zucchino Romanesco seed from an Italian company, Franchi Sementi, a seed sourcer since 1783. ( This variety, recognized by its grey green color and heavy ribs with light green specks, is far superior for its distinctive nutty taste and yeild. For best flavor we pick them smallish, 4-6 inches.

The first year I gardened here my zucchinis were not bearing fruit, I had a glut of male flowers. "Mmmmm, these plants need more sex!" my gut level said. Being the new kid on the block, the bees hadn't put my turf on their radar yet. Just starting out, I had nothing to attract them. Duh, zucchinis need bees for pollination. Duh, no flowers no bees, duh, plant more flowers.

Now, to stay in the bee loop, I make sure something is always flowering in the garden. Letting some vegetable plants go to flower and seed is an easy way to attract the bees and save seed too!  And they're so purdy.

Over the years I've watched the Romanesco plants produce a flood of male flowers before the females kick in and bring on the avalanche of zucchini daze. Its early in the season, and given the abundance of male flowers out there right now a little zucchini sex education is in order. The blossoms are so lovely to look at and eat, and recipes will follow. But now is the time for  the bees to get it on, while we watch and wait.

The male flowers have a phallic looking inside.
 Males can be identified
by the straight erect stem.

The insides of the female
flowers look like eggs.
Females can be identified by their fruits.

The bees are busy getting down to business.
Soon the floodgates will open and zucchinis will rain down.

Ladies and Gentlemen - Be Advised: Lock your car doors during zucchini season.

 Stay tuned for more Zucchini Chronicles!
Part 2: Gluten Free Stuffed Squash Blossoms.
Part 3: My famous Beer Battered Squash Blossoms Recipe
Part 4: Hot Zucchini Nights and National Zucchini Day.