Winter Ideas: Cooking Your Garden Products

Well, one more thing to do during winter - cook and eat what you have grown during summer and autumn.
Here's one recipe inspired from Moroccan cuisine -  Tagine meat balls (without the tagine and the eggs) using mostly products we gathered from our garden.

Step 1: preparing the meat balls: pork and beef meat (finely chopped), onions, garlic, paprika (sweet or hot depending on how hot you like the meat balls), black pepper, parsley and eggs (to keep the meat together in one piece) - all ingredients are mixed together and finely chopped. You can also use lamb or any kind of meat you like. The Moroccan recipe includes some additional ingredients which unfortunately are rare in my country. You can find the original recipe online. However, it's not much different than mine and remember that Moroccans don't use the fork or the spoon to eat it, but pieces of bread and their hands.

The ingredients of the meat balls
The ingredients of the meat balls

Step 2: place some tomato sauce that you have prepared during autumn (tomatoes, basil/thyme, salt) in a pan (I use a Tefal with glass cap) with a few laurel leaves to start boiling slowly;

Tomato sauce with laurel leaves
Tomato sauce with laurel leaves
Step 3: water your hands, make the meat balls and place them in the boiling tomato sauce. Make sure that at least 3 quarters of the balls are covered in sauce.

The meat balls in the tomato sauce
The meat balls in the tomato sauce
Step 4: Place the cap on top of the pan and cook over a small fire for about 20-25 minutes. No stirring is really necessary unless you get bored from time to time.






The original recipe also includes a few eggs that are placed in the pot whole directly on top of the meat balls. You can add those too if you prefer.

If you have a tagine pot it is going to be even better, but I don't so I had to improvise. Where I live tagine pots are rare and cost around 100 euro each, so I don't think they are worth the investment.

Enjoy the receipe and take care,
Geo

Winter Ideas: Seeds Organizer

Winter is soooo long and days pass slowly one at a time. Spring still seems far even if we are one week away from March. We are preparing our seeds for seedling growing, but time still passes slowly, sooooo slowly.

So, what to do in the meantime to make time pass a bit faster? I saw an idea in a gardening magazine - prepare a seeds organizer.

 

We improvised it from a shoe box, making separators from pieces of cardboard stuck to the box with adhesive tape. We wrote the month on each cardboard piece and there we had it - our very own seeds organizer.

We selected seeds according to the month they need to be planted in and wrote "R" on those that need to be grown as seedlings first and "N" on those that need to be placed directly in the garden. Don't bother about the "R" and the "N" - they don't come from English.

So, there you have it - an idea to keep you busy and make winter pass a bit faster - thinking about the great vegetables to plant will make those awful winter days full of clouds just a bit sunnier.

Take care,
Geo

Awaiting Spring - To Do List

Since it's still winter, too long if you asked me, we have plenty of time to make plans and prepare everything for spring. So we decided to make a list of activities in order to organize our spring tasks.

Missing spring


Here it is:

February:
- make a list of vegetables to plant this year (add onions and garlic, loose some of the peppers);
- plant spinach;
- order all the seeds we have by months to be planted in (they start from February and some end in May); we must have them organized not to miss anything;
- create a draft of the vegetables garden on paper to decide which plant goes where this year, what area they occupy and how many plants fit in there;
- discuss with local authorities in order to sign a contract for receiving water from the centralized water system - the horrible drought last year convinced us that our own water supply from is no longer enough;

March:
- prune the trees;
- nursery planting: plant tomatoes, peppers, celery and all the other vegetables that can't be planted directly outside in the garden;
- select and plant March vegetables that can be placed directly outside;
- uncover the trees planted last autumn (which are now covered in straw) and the vineyard (these two activities towards the end of the month);

My husband pruning the peach tree


April:
- uncover all roses; yupeee, finally!
- select and plant April vegetables that can be placed directly outside;
- clean the pond and order fresh pond plants for this year;

This is all we have so far, but I am sure more will be added.

Take care and wish for spring to come sooner,
Geo

Winter Is Already Here

Dear all,

It seems that a successful year is ending and a new one coming.
We managed to finish work in the garden just in time - winter is already here:

Pond
Our pond is already half-frozen

New trees, covered in straw, already full of snow

Roses prepared for winter

Snow is slowly piling up

Troti in the snow
So what's still left to do this year is wish you a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful and Happy New Year.

Take care,
Geo

Create Your Very Own Rose Garden with Minimum Costs

I have created a beginner's guide on how to have your own dream rose garden with minimum costs - how to measure your garden, what types of roses to choose, how to create your roses with no costs at all (from friends, family and neighbors), how to protect your rose garden during winter.

The guide (split in 3 parts) can be downloaded here:

Create Your Very Own Rose Garden with Minimum Costs - Part 1
Create Your Very Own Rose Garden with Minimum Costs - Part 2
Create Your Very Own Rose Garden with Minimum Costs - Part 3

The second rose in our garden

Enjoy,
Geo

Preparing Your Garden for Winter

Since November is almost over, snow is close and we need to prepare our gardens for winter.
Here's what we did:

1. We planted the rest of our trees, roses, strawberries, lavender and everything else we ordered about 2 weeks ago - autumn planting is recommended as it helps plants develop fine roots which will help them become strong and healthy in spring; they need to adjust to the soil well before winter starts and the soil freezes; some plants like roses can still be planted if the weather allows even in December or January, but don't count on that -if soils freezes, your planting is done. We are particularly happy with the roses we bought this year. Here they are below:




Tea Hybrid – Pariser Charme

Tea Hybrid – Sissi

Climber – Don Juan

Climber - Parade

Climber – Swan Lake


Tea Hybrid – Barkarole
Tea Hybrid – Double Delight
English -    Auslo

Tea Hybrid – Lenip

2. We removed all plants that were left in the vegetables' garden - picked all tomatoes and placed them in a dry and dark place to ripe, removed all cucumbers, gathered the rest of the parsley (and placed it in a jar with salt for winter), cleared the place and covered it with manure for next year's crop to be rich;

3. We dug the soil to mix the manure and help it rot;

4. We covered all newly planted trees in straw to protect them from the frost;

5. We covered all freshly planted strawberries with straw and placed a net above to prevent the straw from being blown by the wind;

6. We made piles of earth around all rose bushes and vineyard  - old and newly planted - to protect them from the frost;

7. We cleaned all garden tools and barrels and moved them in the attic;

8.  We cleaned all geraniums of dry leaves and flowers and brought them inside the house;

9. We cleaned the pond pump and brought it inside;
  
10. We removed all sticks from the vegetables' garden (that used to support tomatoes and peppers) and placed them in the shed to protect them from rain - they can still be used next year;

So let winter come - we are ready now (picture below is from last year - we don't have snow yet :) ).
Take care,
Geo 

Our house in winter
 

 

Pickles, Anyone?

How do you turn this...

Tomatoes

into this...
Pickles

Well, it's very simple...Just follow these steps.

1. Prepare your ingredients:  the vegetables you want to turn into pickles (can be anything you can think of: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, small watermelons, zucchinis, cauliflower, even some fruit like apples can become successful pickles), salt (select rough, plain salt without any additives like Iodine - the additives may spoil your final product), the containers (jars, bottles, anything you have available, but if the containers you select can be sealed it's even better and you will be able to keep your pickles for a longer time), seasoning items: horse radish (used whole or grated, it's important as it keeps your pickles nice and hard and it avoids them becoming too soft and mushy), mustard seeds, garlic for a great taste and if you like them a bit spicy - a few spicy peppers.

2. Wash your vegetables thoroughly, cut them into smaller pieces if you prefer and place them in the containers, nothing else at this stage; if you cut them, it's advisable to eat them in a few weeks' time and not keep them over the winter; if you want them to be kept for a longer time in your pantry, better place them in one piece in the container.

Tomatoes placed in jars

3. Place the seasonings in the jar - can be done anytime - at the beginning, in the middle of the process or on top of the vegetables - it doesn't matter because they will mix anyway after the salty water is added;

4. Heat the water - can be even up to the boiling point - and add the salt (1 spoon full of salt to each liter of water- about a quarter of an US gallon); allow the salt to melt and when it's gone, pour the water into the containers up to the top and close the lid for it to get sealed as well as it can; the pickles will last for longer if they are sealed; if not, it's not a catastrophe, but you must make sure to keep them in a cool place for longer storage time.


Our pickles

5. Allow the salty water to do its magic for about 3-4 weeks keeping the containers in a normal room in regular temperature; warmer temperature can help the process finish sooner; also, picking the containers up from time to time and shaking the water around can help the flavors mix better. If the water is no longer clear and looks like in the picture below, your pickles are ready to eat.


Pickles ready to eat

Enjoy :)

These are our first pickles prepared with vegetables from our garden - cucumbers are already done and tomatoes are on the way.

Take care and Kind Regards,
Geo