Dill Lover: Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

20130613-141829.jpg While adding some crushed eggshells to my tomato plants, I was startled by odd things moving in my dill planter - my first black swallowtail caterpillars! For years I've grown dill in this part of the garden, always wondering if these guys would make an appearance and today they did!


My small planter is home to 4 caterpillars, thankfully I have another dill crop that I can harvest from, so that these guys can have their own space. I might pick up a few plants from the farmers market this weekend, to feed the needs of us & them!


A few weeks ago, a blogger friend in Texas posted about her dill going to the caterpillars. My son and I marveled at how so many were munching the dill bed. Apparently they like fennel too, perhaps I should hunt down some fennel plants for them. They might make for a better chrysalis home.



Normally I squish & remove creatures that munch my crops, but theses aren't like those pesky cabbage worms that mutilate my kale. These guys grow into beautiful pollinators and I'm happy to have them in the garden.

Any fun surprises in your garden this year?

Scape & Sausage Penne

20130606-143025.jpg Fridge is out of service - and on the same day as our first CSA pick up of the season! Thankfully, the farmers market was open too. So we're shopping for one meal at a time until the fridge is in working order, hopefully there is also a new fridge on my horizon! My husband came home from the CSA with greens, onions, zucchini & mushrooms. I came home from the farmers market with sausage, garlic scapes, berries and cake. Dinner & dessert are served!


Ingredients: - 5 Italian sweet sausages, casing removed & sliced - 1 small onion, diced - 2-3 garlic scapes, diced - 12 mushrooms - 1 zucchini - Olive oil - Your fav grating cheese (we are into manchego these days) - Salt & pepper - 1 tsp dry thyme - 1 tsp red pepper flakes - Box of pasta, we used penne


Method: - get your pasta water going & don't forget your colander! Then cook noodles according to package instructions - in a large skillet sauté the veg in olive oil - after 5-10 mins reserve veg in a large bowl & cook sausage in olive oil - after 5-8 mins, add veg back in with sausage, add thyme & pepper flakes for kick. Taste for seasoning - when noodles are done, drain & toss in skillet - add some olive oil & shredded cheese. Finish with butter for something over the top.


It was quick, delish & everything came from local farms, my garden & a bit from the pantry. Not bad for not having a working fridge! Thankfully the freezer is working, so leftovers went in there. Fingers crossed that I'll having a working icebox this afternoon!


What do you do when the fridge is on the fritz?

Arugula Pesto


Arugula is growing like gangbusters & I can't keep up! Instead of tossing it in salads, I blitzed it up in the food processor & made pesto.


Ingredients: - 4-6 cups of arugula - 1/2 - 3/4 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano - 1-2 garlic cloves - 1/2 cup of walnuts or pinenuts - 1 bunch of chives - juice of 1/2 a lemon - 1/4-1/2 cup of olive oil 20130530-160530.jpg

Method - individually blitz the cheese, walnuts & garlic. - combine the first 6 ingredients into the food processor & blitz while slowly incorporating the olive oil. - salt & pepper to taste - serve over pasta or roasted veggies


Although arugula has a peppery punch, the pesto can be a little flat. That's why I added the chives & lemon. I have a feeling that most of our pestos will be basil-based this year, but I love making them with cilantro & chives too.


Our dinner was fantastic with the arugula pesto. What are you doing with the greens in your garden?

I Spy: Garlic Scapes


This year I grew my garlic in containers on the deck. Back in February, my garlic shoots were small but surviving. Today, they are growing tall & sending up garlic scapes! The light green bloom in the picture above, is a scape and is delicious!


Over the next few weeks, the scapes will continue to grow & curl. Once I see 2-3 twists per scape, I'll harvest the scapes and grill, sauté, pesto & pickle them!


Though I'll only harvest 15-20 scapes, I will be scouring the farmers markets for bundles of scapes. Last year I picked up a few from Love Dove Farm @ the Howard County Farmers Market at the Miller Library. If you grow garlic, check for scapes! If you don't grow it, look for scapes at your farmers markets in the coming weeks!

Foraging for Chive Blossoms


Chives are blooming all over the garden. The purple & white flowers aren't just beautiful, they're scrumptious. Over the past week, I've carefully snipped partially open buds and brought them inside making a beautiful bouquet & a delicious addition to breakfast, lunch & dinner.


If you don't grow chives, you can find these tasty gems at farmers markets. But I recommend giving them a try in your garden, no matter how small your space is. Mine have grown in the same container for 5 years & delight me with more blossoms each year.


I love chive blossoms on anything you'd sprinkle chives; eggs, stir fry, chicken salad, roasted potatoes, cream cheese, lox, and especially in my farro risotto.

Something else popped up in my garden this week, praying mantis hatchlings! There's always something fun going on in the garden - I'm hoping to see humming birds & butterflies feasting on zinnia nectar soon!


What's happening in your garden?

May Showers & Flowers

20130519-100505.jpg Another gloomy May day. Good for my plants, flowers & ground water, bad for my laundry - the procrastination continues! I was lured outside by all the bright greens, pinks, purples and bold contrast colors. Though, I suffered a lot of dampening off this year basement work = poor air circulation, surprisingly, my green envy zinnias bounced back and are starting to bloom. Last year I made the mistake of directly sowing zinnia seeds outdoors - they took forever to grow & bloom - it wasn't until August that I finally had a flower! This year I started 10 indoors, and they all seem happy and eager to attract humming birds and butterflies.


Herb flowers are also gorgeous. Since moving my chives & sage to pots, they overwinter and come back with dynamite edible flowers each year. Above is a sage blossom. Full of sweet sage nectar, this year I might try frying them with sage leaves & serving with some butternut squash pasta.


I grow flowers for their beauty and for attracting pollinators & good bugs to the garden. Marigolds (above) and Bachelors Buttons (the bud below) attract bees, butterflies, lady bugs & lacewings.


Below are chive blossoms. They are just about to bloom and are delicious. I have a crop on my deck and on my patio - and they'll make it into salads, atop frittatas and as a finishing touch in stir fries.


My front garden is jam packed with flowers this year. African Marigolds, Zinnias, Dahlias, Geraniums, Spanish Lavender, Daisies & a few herbs too. Most of these flowers will be low maintenance & require only a bit of watering & deadheading.



My favorite is still the black viola. It reseeded itself over the winter and found two shady spots out front. That's reason enough for me to water every other morning.


The next flower on my radar is one that I don't want to bloom, the delectable garlic scape. My fingers are crossed that the cool spring means more scapes and larger garlic bulbs!

What's popping up in your garden?

Inspiration: Arugula Sprouts


This weekend was beautiful & full of digging in the garden. When I don't have much time for lunch, I tend to look around for something fresh & quick. The first thing I spotted - arugula sprouts! Paired with a loaf of super seedy bread from the Roots Bakery, hydroponic tomatoes from Hummingbird Farms (find them at Roots & Harris Teeter), a sprinkle of sea salt, a crack of pepper, and some fruity olive oil - lunch was served.



What do you reach for on warm spring days? I spotted some mustard greens too - I might have to do some pickling this weekend.


Jay - My Cooking & Gardening Companion

20130426-160243.jpg This was a devastating week. On Thursday my adorable Scottish Terrier, Jay, passed away. It was sudden, we are shocked & I'm at a loss. Jay was the very definition of spunky & he was so until the end. We had no idea that a tumor was growing inside him. His vigor, appetite & desire for walks never waned. And an appetite he had...


Since adopting him in 2006 from a local breeder, Jay was the king of veggie treats & our own live vacuum. Not a grate of cheese was missed by his nose. Teaching a three year old show dog how to be a house dog was quite a challenge for us. Jay taught us about endless patience & that his bladder knew no bounds. From the first time we met him he would pee where he liked, and that first time it was on Josh. Thankfully, we taught him that the outside was his bathroom. I'm still not sure if it was some compromise....you give me as many baby carrots as I want and I promise to pee outside.


We bonded on endless neighborhood walks & Sunday soup cooking. His fav veggies were broccoli, carrots & celery. Though when we visited my family, he was treated to ham, eggs, chicken, beef & lamb. Spoiled he was.


Jay turned our house into a home, a young couple into a family & adored being a big brother to our son Jack. We learned so much about ourselves, and in my heart I thought we had more time. I knew he was slowing down, but that was ok. He still knew when it was 3pm and the best sniffing spots in the back yard. I had plans of a long maternity leave full of walks to the pond, around Centennial Lake & wherever else he wanted to go. Having him for my first maternity leave was a miracle. When I felt frazzled, exhausted & anxious, he'd snuggle right up to me and insist on a scratch. He melted away my worry and insecurity. He made me a good mama.


Now I have a fridge full of celery, empty water dishes & comfy puppa beds. I'm not sure when I'll be ready to put them away. But I do know that I'll feel a little better after doing some gardening this weekend. I'm on the hunt for a tough, spunky perennial to add to the garden in Jay's honor.


I love you Jay. You will never be forgotten. I'll always listen for your bark, paws & snoof.

One Tulip

20130412-105219.jpg We moved to the western side of Howard County 6 years ago this August. One of the appeals was the additional gardening & outdoor space. After our first winter I noticed tons of tulip shoots & plants, so I held off on any garden renovations to see what lied beneath the soil. They never sent up flowers. Annoyed, I made considerable changes in the front garden and along my front walk up. Never again did I see a tulip plant, probably because it was hidden under something else. Well this year something changed...I have a tulip plant and flower.


I don't know if it's the success I've had with daffodil or hyacinth bulbs, but this yellow tulip decided it was time to shine - and shine it does. Last weeks heat wave devastated my poor daffodils & primroses. But there at the top of the garden my lone yellow tulip stands tall.

Any garden surprises this spring? My tulip has me considering an autumn bulb planting....


Garlic Chive Pesto


My garlic chives need a haircut. Before the chop, I thought long and hard about what to make with so many. Why not Pesto? Using the traditional basil pesto ingredients (sans garlic, I wanted to really taste the garlic chives) I made a bright punchy pesto that will be divine over pasta w/ tomatoes (local & hydroponic of course - too early for any from my garden.)


Ingredients: - 2 bunches of garlic chives, cut in thirds - 1 cup of walnuts, pulverized in the food processor - 1 cup of parm, pulverized in the food processor - olive oil to desired consistency - salt to taste


Method: - process your cheese & walnuts, then reserve in a bowl - cut chives into food processor, pulse the processor a few times - add in cheese, walnuts & a healthy pinch of salt - pulse & add olive oil until desired consistency - save in a container - top the pesto off with olive oil first - for a week or so in the fridge. Or freeze cubes for later use. Mine will be devoured tonight.


I've yet to see garlic chives at my farmers' markets or trader joes. Thankfully they are easy to grow & winter perfectly in the mid-Atlantic region. I grew mine from seed last autumn & transplanted them to my front porch a few weeks ago. Fingers crossed that we get some garlic chive blossoms too.


Have you started harvesting any spring herbs?

My Favorite Pansy - Violet Bowles' Black


I love to see bright colors in the garden. When I first started gardening, a gorgeous flower caught my eye for it's lack of color, and it's been my favorite flower since. I picked up 2 Violet Bowles' Black Pansy plants at my local garden center a few years ago, it was such a rare find that someone stole the second plant right out of my cart! My then 3 year old was furious and attempted to yell at the closest shopper to us! The following year, the garden center didn't carry the plant. So now I grow my own.


The photo above is a pansy that reseeded and came back to my front garden. In the fall, I transplant the remaining pansies from my shaded areas to the front garden. Most of the perennials I grow from seed come back. They must like my brand of compost!

In February, I started 6 seed pots with the Violet Bowles' Black Pansy. All took and were transplanted to my window box. The contrast of green rosemary, red brick & black pansy should add a little interest to my front window. I have some terra cotta containers on my deck that will receive a direct sowing of Violet Bowles' Black Pansy seeds this weekend. The spot is shady & by October the plants will be perfect for the front garden.


A few weeks ago I sowed some bright orange viola seeds. Looks like they may add some color to the mix too (see below)! You never know what will pop up in the spring, all of my thyme & lavender varieties surprised me with green leaves & new growth. Next I should see some hosta & black eyed susan's emerge out back.


Spring Tomato Soup

20130409-200332.jpg It is a beautiful spring day, and it has me craving something summery...tomatoes. Though my tomato seedlings are coming along, they won't have fruit until July/August. So I dug into my canning cabinet to find a taste of summer from last year.


Using butter and cream from a trickling springs creamery, plus tomatoes, thyme & garlic from my garden it was almost a 100% local meal. One lone sweet onion from Georgia, but I say close enough. To jazz up the soup a bit more we'll be dunking in a local baguette & stirring in some pesto made last summer. I suddenly feel the urge to uncover all of my patio furniture and eat al fresco!


Ingredients: - 2 28oz jars of crushed tomatoes - 8 tbsp of butter - 1/2 to 1 cup of cream - 1 big pinch of dried thyme, or 10 sprigs of fresh if you have it - 1 large sweet onion, diced - 3 cloves of garlic, pulverized - 1 tbsp sugar - 1 tbsp salt - garnish with pesto & a crusty baguette

Method: - prep your veg while your butter melts in a large soup pot over medium/low heat - add onion, garlic & thyme and sauté until onion is soft - add salt &'sugar, stir and let dissolve - add tomatoes & simmer for as long as possible. I let mine sit on low in the slow cooker for a few hours. But if you only have a few minutes, it's fine. - either serve chunky or blitz with a hand blender or in a blender. Stir in cream after you ladle into bowls. - add cheese of choice and/or garnish with pesto & a crusty baguette


Anything left in your canning cupboard? Has sprung sprung in your neck of the woods?


Sow Seeds Now

20130408-114711.jpg This is going to be a warm week in central Maryland, so I'm sowing some seeds now! Not tomatoes, peppers, zinnias or basil, those seeds were sown indoors back in February & are threatening to take over my basement. I'm sowing kohlrabi, spinach, lettuce, chard & violas today. This week's warm temps will give my spring crops a jump start at germination & hopefully I'll bee munching on some of them by the end of the month.


I also sowed some herbs too - chervil & cilantro into moveable pots & dill in a deck planter. Chervil & cilantro go to seed in the summer months, but if you keep them shaded you can prolong their greenery.


Late last week I planted golden beet & arugula seeds, looks like those took and I should have a nice crop of both by the end of May.


Over the last few weeks I've also spotted some winter survivors. Tarragon, garlic chives & oregano are ready for a spring haircut already:




It was great to see their green pop up. My rosemary, strawberries & regular chives bounced back too. Should be fun to see which perennials make it back. Anything popping up in your garden?

Pulling Up Parsnips

20130328-144410.jpg I spotted some new green sprouts in my parsnip container & decided to investigate. After digging down an inch or so I found some beautiful white roots! This was my first try at parsnip growing & quite a success. Out of the 10 seeds I planted, 6 grew long, fat & quite happily all fall & winter.


Now what to cook with these beauties. I could do a strifry or stirfry soup. Or maybe something roasted like Moroccan root vegetables. Possibilities are endless.


I sowed the parsnip seeds in one of my large containers on the deck, I didn't want to risk a deer or other critter nibbling on them while they slept all winter. I'm not sure why I didn't try growing parsnips before, I love that I could grow them in the off season. While I was bundled up inside they were busy growing & building up sugars. Yum!


Parsnips aren't the only thing waking up in the garden. My chives, garlic chives & hardneck garlic are all pushing out of the soil too! Now that the soil is loosening I might sow some radish & carrot seeds.

Anything waking up in your garden?

Garden 2013: What I'm growing this year

The last snow of the season is blanketing my neighborhood, but spring is on my mind. A month ago I started my tomatoes, peppers & some flowers. This year's garden will be a bit different than last. No jungle of tomatoes in the backyard this time...I'm focusing on a few peppers, cucs, tomatoes, lettuces, greens, herbs & flowers. My garden needs to be a bit more self sufficient.


Though I'll have a bit of help from a gardener, I'm trying to cut back. With our ever growing family I won't be able to spend as much time watering, weeding or outside picking cabbage worms & tomato hornworms.


Here's what's on my garden list:

Tomatoes Abraham Lincoln Tomato Pineapple Tomato Costoluto Genovese Tomato

Peppers Cayenne Pepper Fish Pepper Jalapeño Pepper Lemon Drop Pepper Poblano Pepper Bell Pepper Pequillo Pepper

Greens Rainbow Chard Golden Chard Lacinato Kale Arugula


Others Hardneck Garlic Mexican Sour Gerkin Cucumber Butternut squash Okra Tomatillo

Herbs Cumin Cilantro Dill Marjoram Chives Emily Basil Thai Basil Chervil Rosemary Oregano Thyme Sage Mint Lemongrass

Flowers Chamomile Violet Black Bowles Pansy Pansy Orange Sun Dahlia Bachelors Button Zinnia Marigold Nasturtiums

All of my seeds came from Baker Creek, Fedco Seeds, or my garden. They are all non-GMO & organic. We are putting a priority on what we consume & what goes into our soil. If you don't grow from seed make sure you know where your seedlings came from. One of the best ways is to ask friends that grow from seed if they'll grow a few extra for you. Otherwise, try farmers markets and organic grocers.


Anything growing in your garden this year?

March (front) Garden

20130304-112336.jpg My front garden, like my deck & back garden, is still sleeping. But there is green to be found, and not just boxwoods! Just this weekend my bulbs sent up shoots. Hyacinth, iris & daffodil blooms are right around the corner, and right on time. Though this winter didn't produce much snow, it was cold.


Instead of buying bulbs, my spring beauties have come from Trader Joes. Each year around this time their flower section is full of primroses, mini iris & daffodil plants. Last year I scored some hyacinth too. I'm sure it would be cheaper to just purchase the bulbs but sometimes inspiration strikes - and for some reason it's at Trader Joes. Over the next few weeks I'll have my eyes peeled for some new additions. Fingers crossed for more iris plants!


Each year I let leaves collect in the garden. Instead of raking them, I let them decompose and send nutrients back into the soil. My front garden is mostly ornamental & floral but I do grow herbs & occasionally chard. There's something utilitarian about using all the green space I've got, even if it's just a couple of postage stamps.

With baby #2 on the way I've enlisted some help in the garden this year. Lauren's Garden Service will be helping me by clearing out all the dead growth in the front & back, regrading soil & removing some over growth. Her team is also helping me on the deck as well. I just can't lift those bags of soil this year, let alone haul them from the garden center!


Any color popping up in your garden this March?

Rosemary in my Windowbox

20130304-112128.jpg A few years ago my husband & son gave me the best Mother's Day gift, a windowbox. For the past 4 years I've grown just one herb & a couple of accent flowers in it. The flowers are usually black violas and the herb is prostrate rosemary. Prostrate rosemary is a little different than regular rosemary, it grows low & will hang over the side of my window box.


I have not sourced prostrate rosemary seeds just yet, and I haven't seen the plants at any of my local garden stores in years...so I'm on the hunt. I've successfully grown other rosemary plants from seed, looks like I need to search a little harder for the prostrate variety.


When it's a bit warmer & the grill is back in use, I find myself snipping from my rosemary windowbox nightly. This earthy herb makes it into almost every dish with ease & is especially delicious on grilled bread. Nothing makes me smile more (other than my silly 5 year old) than seeing my window box teeming with rosemary & viola blooms. Thankfully spring is just around the corner, guess I need to start growing my violas!


Did anything overwinter in your garden?

garlic in february

20130218-170306.jpg My deck garden is looking fairly gloomy & sparse. But if you look a little closer you'll see a bit of green. In October, I planted some garlic cloves. Some of the cloves came from local organic farms (Love Dove & Breezy Willow), while the others came from my 2012 garlic harvest. I was thrilled with how easy it was to grow fantastic garlic in containers, so I'm doing it again and hoping for another great haul!



If my count is right, and things grow as planned, I'll be harvesting 30-40 bulbs of garlic in June! Which is great timing because something else will be done growing in June...and I think I'll be MIA from the garden after this kid pops. But back to why I grow my own garlic - Homegrown garlic is second to none. The bulbs are fatter, the taste is pungent, and it's way cheaper/better quality than what you buy in the supermarket bins. If you really don't have the space to grow it yourself, find a local farm that grows it...it is sooo worth it!


So things look a little bleak in the garden, I'm ok with that. In just a few months I'll be feasting on garlic scapes & shortly after that I'll be pulling up garlic bulbs!

Is anything slowly growing in your winter garden?

Winter Breezy Willow Visit

20130128-122613.jpg Over the weekend I headed over to my CSA farm, Breezy Willow. Though the tomatoes, squash & corn are long gone, I found plenty of local delicacies. There were proteins galore, chicken, pork, beef, oh my! I picked up sausage, bacon & eggs, as well as, broccoli, preserved peaches, goat cheese, cheddar cheese & pickles.


We go gaga over the vanilla peaches. Delicious on their own, they really sing when served over local vanilla ice cream - which you can also get there! Breezy Willow goes beyond preserved peaches & pickles, you'll also find marinara, pickled garlic and lots of other treats.


I'm always surprised with what I find at Breezy Willow, and bonus they have homemade soaps, lotions & alpaca scarves! Stop by soon, they are open all winter on Saturdays between 10a-2pm.

Autumn Clean Up

20121014-110047.jpg It's autumn clean up time in my neck of the woods. Time to recycle soil, empty the rain barrels, plant mums & garlic, and put away the hoses and patio furniture. I'm really hoping for a cold/snowy winter this year, so I'm spending a lot of time organizing and putting things away.


The autumn cleanup also includes the last harvest. In come the tomatoes, peppers, and the CSA is loading me up with cauliflower and broccoli. Into the canner, dehydrator & freezer they all go!




Needless to say, I'm swamped. Which leaves me little time to write - but with the big clean up out of the way, I have hopes of spending more time cooking & writing. I also hope to spend a little more time relaxing outside. We left out the fire-pit and some durable chairs. My husband loves to have an outdoor fire during the holidays. I think he just wants to escape the madness, and I do too!