Friday, October 21, 2016

A Halloween Mystery

One of these things is not like the other.  Store bought on the right.

Was sold ¨Butternut Squash¨ seedlings.  Apparently not.

At first I thought I´d been stupid to plant them next to the zucchini/courgettes, since it´s been (mumble, mumble) years since high school biology.  But, after consulting Mr. Google, turns out the fault lies with either the seller, or the grower last year who let two squashes cross and then used the seed.

But what to do with them...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

And then it was Autumn

Abruptly, the temperatures dropped and the rains came.  Breo and I walk later because it´s still dark at 8:00.  Roses are putting out their last blooms of the year.  The leaves are turning and falling.

And the whine of chainsaws is constant in the distance, as tractors and trailers rumble up and down the road up the hill.

 They´ve cleared an entire lot of oaks, pines, and even eucalyptus. 

Unfortunately, one was a favorite of mine, an old oak curving out over the path like the figurehead on the prow of a boat, tall and elegantly swathed in a green velvet robe of moss.  I feel it´s absence.

This year I will plant trees.

Still, new life appears.  The rain has brought out the mushrooms, some quite tall. Looks like a good year for chestnuts and acorns, too.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mussels with Tomatoes and Pasta

This was really tasty and a great way to use up some of the cherry tomatoes. 

I cover the mussels in cold, salted water for a couple of hours before starting, discarding all broken ones and any that never close. 

Saute a handful of diced onion, a minced garlic clove in a little olive oil.  Add the clean, de-bearded mussels, a glug of white wine and a dash of black pepper. Cover and bring to the boil, then let steam with the heat off for a few minutes.  Let cool.

Strain the mussels, retaining the liquid.  In the same pan, saute some green or red pepper, perhaps some more onion/garlic and a handful of cherry tomatoes per person.  Add the liquid back in and simmer to reduce.  Separate the mussels from their shells.  Cook your pasta.  Just before al dente, add the strained pasta to the reduced sauce along with the mussels.  Shake/toss gently until warmed through and serve.  Don´t add salt until the very end after tasting, because I find the liquor from the mussels is quite salty enough.

¡Que aproveche!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Fall Garden

This was the second very dry summer in a row.  I think it rained twice between May and September.  Good summer for fruit, though.  We´ve had apples, pears, plums, lots of blackberries, even a couple of walnuts but not a single, solitary grape.  Got good production from the runner beans, onions, courgette/zucchini, peppers, green basil and, surprisingly enough, the tomatoes.  The cherry tomatoes especially were still pumping out product.  Unfortunately, they all had blight and I ripped them out to burn them.  The Santiago Black was especially good and flavorful.

Carrots are a little short, but I wasn´t diligent about thinning them.  Tasty though.

I got one strawberry.  Didn´t net adequately or early enough.

I have renewed respect for anyone that can grow a decent head of cauliflower.  All ours were buggy and scant.  The broccoli was only slightly better.

Peppers finally showed up.  Unfortunately, I had a tough time telling which were the Orense, the Piquillo and the Padron.  Wondering how to preserve them now.  Can I roast and freeze them?

Peas didn´t like the heat or the drought.  I planted more, and they´ve germinated, but it´s probably too late to get any this fall.

The courgette got powdery mildew and passed it on to the butternut squash.  So far there are 3 giant and 2 good sized squash growing, as well as some littler ones.  Hoping they ripen.

Brussels sprouts are tall and sprouting.  Not exactly sure when one harvests them. Is there a trick to getting nice tight heads?

Planted beet greens, kale, spinach and parsnips and all appear to have germinated.  Will probably buy some cabbage starts from the farmers market, though cabbage is so cheap and the dreaded white butterflies so plentiful it may not be worth it.  I bought 4 tiny rhubarb starts, some lavendar and some sage the last time I was there. Garlic will probably go in where the tomatoes and peppers were.  Thinking of doubling the size of the garden.  We´ve discovered you can rent a tiller for 18€ a day in the village and it seems to me money well spent, if only to get experience using one. I´ve had plastic down to kill the grass for a while.  Now mulling a new layout.

Got 2 jars of pickles, 4 jars of tomato sauce, 2 jars of pesto, 4 small jars of blackberry jam, and 2 jars of bramble jelly done.  Am thinking I should try making sauerkraut to see if I like it.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Happy Equinox

Took a hiatus after the parade of family that visited during August.

Breo is fabulous and was a total charmer with everyone who came, human or animal.  We had his cousin from Madrid, a 9 month Jack Russell mix for 2 weeks and it was a non-stop playdate the entire time.  Poor Breo slept 2 entire days after he left.

Some pics from our walk this morning. Fall is in the air!

Thursday, July 14, 2016


I bought a box of sweet cherries and made a clafoutis.   I used the Julia Childs recipe from here, since she knew her way around French cooking.

Turned out quite straightforward and tasty - a softer texture than I was expecting.  It´s a little like popover batter, and not too sweet.  I think maybe some toasted almonds on top would be a good addition.

Unfortunately, my only cherry pitter gave up halfway through.  So I stewed the rest of the cherries with their stones and am now in the market for a new pitter.  Life is too short to be doing it with a knife.

I should plant a sour cherry tree, as I like them better cooked than fresh.

ETA - Clearly this year, Bastille Day was anythng but happy, so I´ve changed the title of the post.  My thoughts and best wishes go out to the victims of the tragedy in Nice.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The veg patch

They say vegetables are good for you.  After two months creating a veg patch, I´ve got my doubts.


Potatoes - doing really well.  No more dirt to hill up a second time. Tops yellowing now.  Neighbors say I can start digging any time.  Don´t know where they´ll cure.
Onions - also doing well.  Using as spring onions in salads.
Strawberries - flowering and fruiting and being eaten by critters while still white
Spinach - bolted and yanked.
Lettuce - now cutting for salad.  Planted more, ruffled and red, but the red keeps disappearing - eaten?
Carrots - Thinned once.  Uneven germination.
Broccoli/cauliflower/cabbage/brussels sprouts - barely survived nibbled on by varmints (rabbits).  Planted more brussels sprouts.
Parsnips - missing in action, as predicted.  Redug and planted leeks.
Peas - don´t really want to climb, but producing peas.  Picked a couple of pods but the peas were still quite small.
Tomatoes - Growing and flowering.  Making a hash of a florida weave.
Peppers - Growing and flowering.  Harvested one pepper - Orense, I think.
Green Beans - growing and flowering.
Zucchini/courgette -growing and flowering.  How I ended up with 4, I don´t know.
Squash/pumpkin - 2 hills with 3 plants in each.
Basil, parsley, dill, marigolds, nasturtiums, borage - borage kind of a no show, nasturtiums in one bed, marigolds uneven, green basil sprouted, purple not so much.  No sign of parsley or dill.

Garlic - harvested.  It may have been early, but the bed they were in was always wet and I was worried they´d rot.  Half the leaves were dry and yellow, so I pulled them and they´re curing in the water heater closet.  Seemed like I planted a lot more cloves than I got heads, but for a first time not bad.

Misc (tomato, herb, flower) started seeds - Disasterous - they sat with exactly the same first two leaves they had for over a month.  Some slug came along overnight and nipped the leaves off some.  Abandoned in disgust and bought starts.

So far 6 small trash bags of assorted crap cleaned from the beds.  Many, many, many rocks removed.  Lots still remain.

Should probably be starting fall stuff - rutabagas, etc.  Am told that grelos (beet greens) to in after the potatoes.  Should I try starting seeds? Too fed up with gardening to think about it.