Category Archives: Gardening

Quick Pickled Green Beans


This year, we have so many green beans (and purple, and yellow) that it’s a little hard to keep up. Between a 4′ x 4′ plot of bush beans and a couple trellises of climbing beans, I’m lugging a big basket of pods into the house every morning.


And when I find myself staring at a pile of fresh beans that I don’t feel like blanching and sealing for the freezer, I turn to the easiest possible method of preserving them, quick pickled green beans:


Note that these pickled green beans are not the standard hot-processed “Dilly Beans,” which I’ve tried to embrace on many occasions but always found limp and aggressively vinegary. These beans are another story altogether. I included instructions for hot-processing these as well, if you feel you must, but I almost never bother canning my beans.

Quick pickles are great for two reasons: First, they aren’t all limp like their boiled counterparts. And more importantly, they couldn’t be easier. Just cram your vegetables and some spices into a jar, add vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio, and pop it in the fridge. They don’t keep for years like hot-processed pickles, but once you taste them they won’t be sticking around longer than a month anyway.

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3 quarts

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Delicious, crunchy, and perfect alongside a Bloody Mary (or a sandwich).


  • 3 pounds green beans, stems intact, washed and dried
  • 9 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
  • 6 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 9 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
  • a handful of washed fresh grape leaves (optional)


  1. Pack green beans evenly into quart-sized jars, along with garlic, salt, spices, and grape leaves if using.
  2. Fill jars halfway with white vinegar, then top off with cool filtered water.
  3. Put lids on jars and flip upside down for a few minutes to distribute the spices.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 3 days to develop flavors. Pickles will be at their prime in 2 weeks, and will last up to a month.
  5. To can:
  6. Heat vinegar, water, and salt to a boil first, and pour over beans and spices in sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, adding time for altitude (I process for 15 minutes here at 6,000 feet).


Adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.

Brown-buttered Zucchini with Basil


It’s summer squash season, and you know what that means: It’s best to keep your car windows rolled up and your doors locked, or you might come back to find that someone’s “gifted” you a zucchini that could double as a baseball bat.


Gold Rush zucchini — easier to spot than the green ones

I don’t resort to that anymore though, mainly because I mostly grow squash that aren’t green. They’re easier to catch while they’re small, so as long as I check the plants daily I don’t often find myself staring down a squash that’s bigger than my femur.

cocozelle squash


The one exception this year is a variety called Cocozelle, and it’s proving to be a bit of a challenge because the scalloped green zucchini look a lot like stems. I love the way it looks though, and it’s definitely our top producer right now.

zephyr squash

Little two-toned Zephyr squash — they won’t seem so innocent in a few days.

So in honor of high squash season, I’ll be putting up some of my favorite recipes in the coming weeks. This is one of my very favorite simple dishes — zucchini sliced very thin and sautéed for just a few minutes in a simple brown butter sauce, then brightened with shards of fresh basil.


And if you have some fresh parmesan on hand, grate some on top to make it even better. Try doubling the butter and serving it over pasta for a simple vegetarian meal. If you have some fresh sweet corn? Throw it in. The brown butter and basil combination makes magic with almost any summer vegetable.


However: This is not one of those recipes for dealing with big, hulking squash that are watery and full of seeds (I’ll be posting one of those next time) — if you’re using zucchini, they should be market-sized (about eight inches long).

Brown-buttered Zucchini with Basil

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 7 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Serving Size: 1/2 zucchini

Brown-buttered Zucchini with Basil

A simple and delicious way to deal with too much zucchini (if there is such a thing).


  • 1 medium zucchini (about 8 inches long) or summer squash
  • 1-2 tablespoons white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh basil


  1. Cut squash as thin as you can manage and set aside.
  2. Put butter in a large skillet and melt it over low-medium heat. Cook butter just until it starts to brown, you'll need to watch it like a hawk as it goes from brown to burned in seconds.
  3. Immediately throw onion into skillet and stir, cook until translucent.
  4. Add squash and cook a few minutes, until heated through but not mushy.
  5. Remove from heat and finely chop fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle across the top and serve hot.

Crushed Peas with Smoky Sesame Dressing


As I crouched harvesting peas in the blinding sunshine, I noticed a whole lot of big, fat pods and no more blossoms. Our “heat-resistant” peas have finally hit their limit with the temperatures being consistently in the 90s, and I feel their pain.


So the peas and I got a brief respite. I yanked them all out of the ground, to be replanted next month for a fall crop. And then I separated the pea pods from the plants while sitting in the shade with my iced coffee.



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“Do you sell purslane here?”


Around the time I started my first garden, I saw an article that listed the “10 Most Nutritious Foods,” or something like that. High up on the list was purslane, something I’d never heard of. The article didn’t provide a picture, but it did have a lot of nice things to say about purslane, which was enough to entice me.

And so I went on a quest to find some for my garden. I checked all the local greenhouses and seed displays, and every person I asked answered with “No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that here” and occasionally a funny look. And then the rest of the garden started taking off, and I forgot all about purslane.

Until about a year later, when I was at a friend’s house thumbing through a book about wild edible plants in Colorado. A book with pictures. And then I realized why none of the local places sold purslane — I pulled about 5 pounds of it out of my tiny garden plot that morning alone. Although it’s widely used as a food in most other countries, here in the U.S. it’s a weed.


I’ve picked more than my fair share of purslane since then, though I usually just give it to the chickens. It’s hard to rinse, and most of my attempts to sauté it were a waste of butter — but I do like to eat it raw, especially in the early morning when it has a tart, almost lemony flavor (this is because the leaves are full of malic acid, which is converted into glucose during the day — by afternoon, the leaves taste like mild lettuce.)

And this year, for the first time, I saw purslane in the seed display at the garden store. I may not be buying it anytime soon, but at least my rookie mistake doesn’t seem so embarrassing now.


What’s up

Pretty much everything in the garden is going crazy now. It’s a jungle out there! First up, the Bee Garden:

Bee Garden

And the lavender plants scattered throughout the garden are just starting to bloom:


The violas have been going for a while now, and are just begging to be put on top of cupcakes and scattered through salads (the flowers are edible, in case you didn’t know.)


And the bush beans: We’re doing a lot of different varieties this year, both dried and fresh. They’re finally recovering after their run-in with a family of rabbits.


The pole beans have been pretty busy, too:


The sugar snap peas got their first blossoms today:sugar_snap_blossom

And we’re getting our first ripe tomato, too. This plant is a Stupice (prounounced Stew-pEEch-ka) and it’s always our earliest tomato (and one of the last to quit in the fall.) Russian/Siberian varieties like this one do great in Colorado’s short growing season, so I grow a lot of them.


We’re starting to get some peppers, too:


And finally, just as I was about to give up and plant more seeds, our pink banana squash broke through the ground. pink_banana

This is the rhubarb from our friends across the street. It’s finally starting to take off now, hopefully we’ll be able to harvest some before too long! Because I think I need more cakerhubarb

And the cilantro patch, which pretty much just grows wild, is already starting to bolt and reseed itself.bolting_cilantro

And the flowers…



snapdragons white_columbine  chamomile

And out in the coop, a few chickens have made the move up to the roost, where they’re sleeping with the big chickens (the rest are still dog-piling on the floor.) And who else would be the first, but Shelly (she’s the one on the right.) The little guy next to her is another of the five “special” chickens that stayed in the house under observation for the first week. Didn’t really expect these two to be leading the pack, but I couldn’t be more proud.


And the obnoxiously friendly Asada is now able to fly all the way up to my shoulder when I’m standing. She spent a while roosting happily on my head and shoulders while I tried in vain to get a picture, and then flew down just as the shutter went off.


And then one of Cutlet’s daughters, who we call Patty, decided to join the club and perched on my arm until I kicked her off. We’re going to get some really nice hens out of this batch (and I’m hoping both of these girls will lay green eggs.)


How’s it growing?

The past couple days have been spent almost entirely in the garden, and we’re finally almost done getting all the plants and soaker hoses in place. So I’m celebrating with a little macro tour.

First, the new peony:

peony_about_to_bloom peony

And the foxgloves, and the dahlias:



Then, the patches of self-seeding Violas and Larkspur that get bigger every year:



And Four O’Clocks: Another self-seeder that keeps popping up everywhere — I’ve pulled dozens out of the bean patch already. As my grandmother said, “A weed is just a flower out of place.” We love these particular weeds so much that we planted a second row this year.


And speaking of self-seeding: A few random beans popped up around the garden, too (the ones we planted last week are just starting to show up.)

volunteer_bean cranberry_bean

We’re growing lots of small eggplants, including my favorite, “Little Prince.”


And the basil. So much basil. I’ll be making ice cream with it tonight, if I can manage to stay awake past sunset.

purple_basil genovese_basil

And no garden is complete without tomatoes or peppers. Or tomatillos.

tomatillo tomato

Also squash, melons, and all the other delicious plants that are just about to break through the soil. I can’t wait.

Tamari Roasted Almonds


I spent almost the entire weekend outside with my sister — weeding and tilling, planting flowers, and laying down plastic to keep the weeds at bay. There’s still a long list of things to be done yesterday, and I feel like I’ve been hit by a train (but in a good way.) I think we’re off to a solid start on our best garden yet, and I can’t wait to get back out there.


We took a break yesterday for a visit from our Mom, who is the source of our green thumbs. So of course we celebrated Mother’s Day with a trip to our neighborhood garden store. And also a special cake that my mom requested, which turned out even better than expected. That one will be making an appearance on the blog later this week.

But for now, I bring you something that only takes a little bit of effort: Tamari roasted almonds.


I got hooked on tamari almonds working at a health food store in college, and for years paid way too much to buy them already roasted. I attempted to make my own a few times, back when I was first learning to cook, and always ended up with almonds that were either chewy or burned (usually both.) After you’ve ruined a few pounds of raw almonds, the pre-roasted ones start to look like a bargain.


But last year, I revisited the idea and finally figured out how to make my own. And not only is it really simple, but much less expensive. Only I eat more of them than ever now, so I suppose it all balances out.

Tamari Roasted Almonds

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3/4 pound

Tamari Roasted Almonds


  • 3/4 pound raw almonds
  • 3-4 tablespoons tamari soy sauce


  1. Spread almonds in a single layer in a large baking dish.
  2. Set oven to 325 and put almonds in, don't bother preheating. Set a timer to check them in 8 minutes.
  3. Stir and check the almonds every 2-5 minutes, gradually they will start to get a little more color and give off a toasty aroma.
  4. Sprinkle soy sauce over almonds and stir to coat; they should be a little wet but not swimming in it.
  5. Place almonds back in the oven for a couple minutes with the door cracked, stirring occasionally. When the liquid is almost all absorbed, transfer almonds to a dish to cool. Store in an airtight container.



Sunchoke Soup

We were all hoping for a foot or two of accumulation. But a day of heavy, slushy snow melting right into the ground was almost as sweet.


Even sweeter were the sunchokes I dug the day before.



Do you know about sunchokes? They’re also called Jerusalem Artichokes, and they have a flavor reminiscent of artichokes. But they’re actually related to the sunflower, and the “choke” is a tuber that grows underground and looks a lot like ginger root.


Sunchokes are similar to potatoes, but much higher in fiber and with a subtle, earthy, nutty flavor. A little like mushrooms, a little like artichokes. Hard to describe, but totally delicious. Use them in place of potatoes, or in combination with them. Or eat them raw.



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