Wednesday, May 4, 2016

From a Clear Lake Kitchen: Taking Stock Before Planting, Raised Beds and Herb Butter

Last summer's bounty was put up in jars, stashed in the freezer, and inventoried on my "storage harvest" peg board.

On the left are tags for what we will still be enjoying before we can harvest the delights from this year's garden and the Clear Lake Farmer's Market. When we pulled goodness from the freezer or pantry, I stowed its tag down at the bottom of the board, ready for this year's new inventory. We sure had a lot of super food!

The garden stores are jumping with possibilities. Seed packets are everywhere, of course. You don't have to wait for mail order. The usual seed suppliers have their tempting carousels stocked with new and old reliable varieties. I spied a display of heirloom from Seed Savers Exchange of Decorah at Hy-Vee the other day.  So a pea variety from 1898, beets from 1892 and 1828, and some Australian heirloom "five color silverbeet Swiss chart" fell into the cart.  Plants that help northern Iowa gardeners get a jump on the season are all around. Tomatoes and peppers of all kinds, even cucumbers and zucchini are ready to be placed oh! so carefully in the ground.

I'm ready!  But before I get too carried away, I want to stop and think a bit about how to make the best use of my limited garden space. That's where the storage harvest peg board has come in handy. I can look at what we've enjoyed the most and make sure I plant for that.  I'm down to one package of the creamed squash casserole. Counting the tags, I see I had put by ten of them. So it might be worth having two of the the nice yellow bush squash plants.

I also need to think about where I want to plant.  With the garden getting full, I'm planting herbs and lettuces in pots.

And maybe even a raised bed.  Woodford Lumber and Home has designed and exhibited a particularly efficient one at the Green Expo held at the Surf and the Woman's Expo at Southbridge Mall. It is a pyramid! Made of cedar. The boards have interlocking slots near the ends--kind of like Lincoln Logs fit together. No nails or screws! A child could put it together! The three levels would provide about thirty feet of "row" on a thirty-inch square base. And in the fall, you can pull it apart and stack the boards flat if you want to. Or just leave it ready for next year.

Full grown pyramid raised bed. 


Two views of the planter. See how the boards interlock in the side view and how they stack in the view from the top down. 

And now for the Herb Butter recipe!

This herb butter was one of the favorite freezer items.

Fall-Garden-Clearing Herb Butter

So just what do you do with all the flourishing herbs when the killing frost is pending? I didn't have room in the house to pot them up and bring inside.  Some-- like sage -- will winter over.  Pesto is a wonderful way to preserve abundant basil. But what about rosemary, parsley, thyme, marjoram, and others?  The herb butter is easy to make and keeps well. Ready to spark up simple mashed potatoes, boiled vegetables, simple sauce for fish, or even melted and mixed into bread crumbs for a savory casserole topping. 


bunches of fresh herbs -- rosemary, thyme, parsley, whatever you have in your garden

good quality butter (for my garden I used 2 pounds of butter)

Wash and dry the herbs. Remove from stems and process in food processor until very finely chopped. 

Mix with an equal amount of soft butter. 

Form into logs, wrap in freezer-quality plastic wrap and seal the logs in freezer bags. 

To use, slice off what you want and reseal the package. 

copyright 2016 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved.