Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Eat Green Page 1 of 9

Spring is here!

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Although the weather is still unpredictable (there is a blizzard outside right now), Spring has certainly arrived. Almost overnight, all the buds on the “Mount Baker” lilac turned green.

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The most exciting news is that everything we planted last year survived their first winter. Most of the trees and perennials we put into the ground were baby plants. With record snow fall and cold snaps this winter, I was worried about how many of them would make it. But after a careful check under the mulch, I found almost everything we planted last year has started to come back to life.

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The garlic

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The fruit trees

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Even the newly planted hazelnut trees started leafing out:

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Besides the hazelnut trees, we decided to add a berry garden in the backyard this Spring. To begin with, we ordered five blackberry canes and fifteen raspberry canes.

The blackberry canes

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The raspberry canes

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The new berry garden is located between the flower garden and the house. We have covered the field since last fall with black plastic to get rid of the grass. When the elm trees were removed a few weeks ago, we got yards of wood chips and used them to mulch the berry garden area.

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According to the planting guide, the canes need to be spaced a few feet apart. I used bricks to mark the location of the canes before digging.

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After getting the raspberry canes into the ground, I used flags to mark the canes so the dogs hopefully will not bother them.

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The blackberry canes were planted between the northern fence and the hazelnut trees.

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I also plan to add a garden path around the berry garden and the perennial garden. I laid out the shape of the path with garden hoses, and expanded the perennial garden bed to include the maple tree.

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The new shape of the garden bed works with the garden path much better. I filled the new garden bed with leftover wood chip mulch:

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The leftover concrete blocks make a perfect circle around the serviceberry bush:

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The nut trees and the berry canes added another 1000 sqft of edible garden space to our backyard, in addition to the 600 sqft of veggie garden. With good care, the berry garden should start producing next year, and the hazelnut trees should start producing after three years. I cannot help but wondering what our yard will look like in 5 years, with mature perennials, climbing roses, and fully-grown fruit and nut trees. What about your yard? Did everything wake up? What are you planting this Spring?

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What is Coming to Our Garden in 2019

We have been having dusting of snow and gray days since New Year. I cannot help but craving color, sunshine, and warmer temperatures so I can work in my garden again.

Fortunately planning for next year’s garden can take place inside. New to gardening, it is easy to just pile plants into the landscape. I thought long and hard about how I want the backyard to look eventually, and what I want to get out of the garden besides the view.

To be honest, I started gardening for the edibles. The first things we planted on our property were fruit trees, and our second project was a vegetable garden. Enjoying fresh produce during the summer months I was impressed by how juicy and tasty every was. Right off the vine, our vegetables were cooked with only a dash of salt and still tasted great. We have already decided to expand the vegetable garden next summer. But for long-term, we would like to add more edible and perennial shrubs and trees to our yard.

After discussing with Slav I decided to focus on berry bushes and nut trees for 2019. And here are what’re coming to our garden next Spring:

Raspberry collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry Plants Collection

Raspberry is an easy choice for us. We love fresh berries. During warmer months I drink berry smoothie daily, and in winter we make berry pancakes a lot. Berries are expensive and perishable which make them the best candidate for organic home growing. I chose to get a rainbow of raspberries of gold, red and purple fruit, that matures at different time of the summer, so we can enjoy fresh raspberries from summer to fall. The collection I ordered includes 15 plants, 5 each of Prelude—an early red; Anne—a sweet and golden everbearing; and Royalty— a summer bearing type that can be enjoyed at the red or later, purple stage.

Blackberry

In addition to raspberries I also ordered a type pf blackberry called Prime-Ark Freedom. It is thornless and produces blackberries on its first year of growth. It also offers high disease resistance to rust and strong cold-hardiness, which are perfect for our climate. I ordered 5 blackberry bushes, which will be planted with the raspberries in our backyard and protected from birds and squirrels.

Seascape Strawberry Plants

Seascape Strawberry Plants

We planted 6 strawberries in 2018 in our veggie garden, without knowing anything about the growth habit of strawberries. I did not even know that they are perennials in our climate! It was a nice surprise when I saw them spreading vigorously like mints. By the end of the growing season the 6 strawberry plants multiplied into 20 plants and occupied 4 x 8 sqft space. I decided to add another 25 in the next Spring so we can have enough fresh strawberries for summer.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts

Gardening is my task in this house, but I make sure to include Slav’s favorite into the garden as well. So far he seems to be interested in plants/trees growing in his childhood home, including hazelnuts. Hazelnut needs cross pollination so you need at least two varieties to produce, especially since there is no other hazelnut trees in our neighborhood. I ordered two bare root dwarf hazelnuts trees and they will be added to our backyard.

Hellebore

The last category of plants I ordered was hellebore, namely Christmas rose. I did not know about them until a few years ago, when I got a cutting from a friend. I planted the cutting in the most unfriendly soil and shade spot under a big pine tree, but the cutting multiplied and gave out the most beautiful flower at the most unexpected time – early January. Being in Zone 5 I am dying to add some winter color and interest, and Hellebore makes the perfect candidate.  Another rare trait of hellebore is that it grows in full shade, which allows me to plant it in more protected area such as under our crabapple tree.

I prefer white, pink, purple to red flowers, so here are the ones I ordered:

Picotee Pearl

Plant-Picotee Pearl Hellebore

Fire & Ice

Plant-Fire & Ice Hellebore

Blue Diamond

Plant-Blue Diamond Hellebore

Phoenix

Hellebore, Phoenix , , large

Painted Doubles

Hellebore, Painted Doubles, , large

Wedding Party Confetti Cake

Hellebore, Wedding Party Confetti Cake , , large

Wedding Party Bridesmaid

Hellebore, Wedding Party Bridesmaid , , large

Wedding Party Dark and Handsome

Hellebore, Wedding Party Dark and Handsome, , large

Aren’t they pretty? To stay within budget I ordered only one for each variety. Hopefully they all survive the curiosity of the dogs and bloom next Christmas.

Among two nut trees, twenty berry bushes, eight winter blooming flowers, and a regular veggie garden, I think I have plenty of work cut out for myself in the new year. Expanding the edible garden and having a steady streams of cut flowers is my garden goal for 2019. Are you thinking about gardening already? What is your gardening goal for 2019?

Braised Bamboo Shoots

Hi friends! I am here to share with you an easy, authentic Chinese recipe – braised bamboo shoots. It only contains three ingredients and four spices, and takes ~15 minutes to cook. A quick weekday night dinner indeed.

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There are two types of bamboo shoots – Spring bamboo shoots, and winter bamboo shoots. Both work with this recipe. While fresh bamboo shoots are hard to come by, Asian stores almost always have frozen ones. We came across fresh bamboo shoots randomly and I just have to get it. And braised bamboo shoots is my favorite way to cook them.

So here are the three ingredients I used: a bag of pre-skinned bamboo shoots (a little over a pound), a few cloves of garlic, and a thick slice of Chinese bacon. Some people use ginger instead of garlic, and I would have used a couple slices of ginger if I had any. Not everyone cook this dish with garlic either. I personally love the taste of cooked garlic so I always try to include some whenever possible.

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Chinese bacon usually taste sweet and salty, which is how you want braised dish to taste like. The fat also cooks out, which is absorbed by the bamboo shoots and makes them extra tasty. You can totally skip the meat to make this dish vegan though. The bamboo shoot will still taste great!

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The three main spices to make braised anything are sugar, Shaoxing wine, and soy sauce. Traditional Chinese dishes always use rock sugar, and it is usually melted in hot oil in order to coat whatever ingredient you wish to braise. I do not have rock sugar, so I used raw sugar. You can use any sweetener, including maple syrup or honey.

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The first step is to cut the bamboo shoots into bite size and the meat into small bits. Someone once asked me how Chinese people eat meat without knife and fork. The truth is, almost everything in transitional Chinese dishes has been cut to bite size before cooking, so one can use chopsticks to pick a piece up, put it into one’s mouth, and chew it with one’s mouth closed. Except noodles, which you are supposed to slurp in order to effectively cool the noodle down to prevent mouth burn.

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I cut a few slit into each garlic cloves but kept them whole. You can cut the garlic however way you want. I generally keep my herbs – such as ginger, pepper, green onion, and garlic whole, so I can pick them out before serving. In terms of green onion, I usually tie a bundle of them into a knot, so they release their flavor but do not disintegrate. This is particularly important when cooking soups, so the soup remains clear and debris-free.

Second, heat up some oil and brown the garlic. I used only one table spoon of oil because I knew the Chinese bacon will release some.

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As soon as you can smell the garlic (30 seconds to a minute), add meat. In my case, the Chinese bacon has been cured so it only takes minutes to cook though. Whatever meat you are using, just make sure that it is seared before adding the bamboo shoots.

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Once the bamboo shoots is added, stir everything so all the bamboo shoot pieces are coated with oil. Cook the whole mixture for another 3 minutes or so, until the bamboo shoots become brown on their edges.

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Now it is time to add Shaoxing wine (1 tablespoon), soy sauce (2 tablespoon), and a bit sugar/sweetener (1 teaspoon). I also added 1 tablespoons of water.

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I did not use much sugar because the Chinese bacon was already sweet. If you are cooking this dish with non-flavored meat, make sure you double the amount of the sugar/sweetener. Now give everything a quick mix and cover for another 5 minutes.

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When the bamboo shoots turns brown, it is time to open the lid and give the whole thing another stir. There should not be much liquid left at this point. If there is, do not panic. Just turn up the heat to reduce the liquid. Salt to taste (I did not add any salt because the Chinese bacon was already salty).

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And here it is! It is great with steamed rice.

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Enjoy!

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