Category: Edibles

Compost squash

Things are still growing in joene’s gardens, in spite of the absence of recent posts. Again this season, volunteer plants grow in the compost bins, namely compost squash.

Like most home compost bins, mine become hot enough to decompose kitchen scraps, shredded leaves, and other plant material into rich compost. However, they do not get hot enough to kill all seeds. Therefore, I never add plant material with weed seeds, but  do add veggies with seeds and some perennials that have begun to produce seeds.

This results in volunteer lamb’s ear (Stachys), foxglove (Digitalis), lady’s mantle (Alchemilla), and other perennials showing up in places where I spread compost. These volunteers either get transplanted where needed or pulled.

Some volunteers, however, grow right out of the compost bins. Each season brings a surprise crop of some sort – usually squash – growing from seeds dumped into the bins the previous year.

The 2016 compost squash crop consists of volunteer butternut squash and pumpkin.

A butternut squash volunteer growing in a compost bin.

A butternut squash volunteer growing in a compost bin.

A volunteer pumpkin growing in a compost bin.

A volunteer pumpkin growing in a compost bin.

What a nice surprise after previous years of prolific gourd vines of growing from the same bins! While it was nice to use virtually free gourds as autumn decorations, it will be much more fun turning this year’s compost squash into soup and pie.

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Garlic scapes, the season is here!

It’s garlic scape season here in joene’s garden … one of the best perks of growing garlic.

Scapes are the flowering shoots of garlic bulbs. They wind and curl around tall, straight garlic leaves and will go to flower and eventually produce garlic seed, so if your goal is to harvest garlic bulbs, cut the scapes off when they begin to curl.

Garlic scape bouquet by Ralph Chappell Photography

Garlic scape bouquet by Ralph Chappell Photography

Use the scapes as an interesting indoor bouquet, which my favorite photographer then used for a photo shoot (above). As long as provided with fresh water daily, you can use these over a week or two. Their clean, fresh, gentle flavor adds a mild garlic taste to pesto, stir-fry, salsa or in any dish you would normally add garlic. Thin garlic scape slices with lemon juice add a wonderful flavor to baked fish. I like to blend the tender tips of scapes with a little olive oil until the consistency of a thick milk shake, then pour the mix into ice cube trays, freeze, and package as cubes to add to winter soups, stews, chili, and tomato sauce.

As noted, the scapes keep well as a bouquet for about a week when provided fresh water daily. To hold them longer, place scapes in a container of water in the refrigerator. They will hold there for up to a month when provided with fresh water every couple of days.

Those who preserve by home canning may try pickled garlic scapes. I have not tried this yet, but it’s on my lengthy to-do.

The scapes in my garden grow from fall-planted garlic, known as winter garlic, as the bulbs over-winter in the ground, begin to grow in early spring for mid-summer harvesting and curing. This type of garlic keeps well through winter. Spring planted garlic acts similarly but does not keep as well.

If you don’t grow garlic in your own garden, watch for garlic scapes at a local farmers’ market.

Share how you use garlic scapes … I’m always looking for new ways to use and preserve them.