Wednesday, April 13, 2011


April 13, 2011
Since I last wrote we’ve all been very busy moving on with our plans for the spring and summer.

Gary worked a little overtime at his job this week so he couldn’t do much to help in either endeavor until Friday afternoon. Once home though he really pitched in and the gardening went a lot faster.

Monday Sean went to pay off his truck and while out he found some Canadice red grapes, Tuesday he planted those in the grape garden. I then planted Bloomsdale spinach between the grapes and the strawberry plants. I’ll probably add a few marigold to this garden as well since we have a lot of rabbits in the area.

Prior to Friday Sean worked on building another 24 foot row in the garden by himself as I worked on the potato garden. In this long and narrow bed I planted Russet white potatoes, and Norland red potatoes. Then I companion planted Copenhagen Early Market cabbage, Spring broccoli raab, and Green Sprouting broccoli.

Normally I wouldn’t plant three Brassica in the same garden, but I only want a few heads of cabbage because none of us like sauerkraut that much and the smell of cooking cabbage can run you out of the house—although I do love a good cabbage roll. So we decided we’d grow only a few head this spring (if the rabbits don’t get them) and then go for a bigger crop in the fall of a long keeping cabbage, with possibly trying to grow a few heads in the greenhouse.

I misplaced the broccoli seeds on Friday (found them that night) so the broccoli raab got planted in that row instead.

Once the broccolis and cabbage were planted two Victoria rhubard were planted at the opposite end of the bed from the already well established horseradish. This left a little space for a short row of something else. Got to check my companion planting chart to see what.

That leaves the area between the fence and this garden where we will add marigold seeds, if ever there was a garden that would need it this would probably be it. Last year we got very little lettuce and NO cabbage due to Peter Cottontail.

By the end of Friday Sean, Gary and I had finished building the second row in the big garden. In this we planted Adirondack blue potatoes. I will be adding a few other seeds to this garden as well this next week.

The three of us started building the third row in the big garden and have it nearly completed.

Along the same line, but different…while purchasing feed on Thursday I noticed they had a sign up they had freshly harvested asparagus up for sale. While my husband won’t eat asparagus Sean and I love it and my asparagus hadn’t started sprouting yet (first shoot appeared the next day). So I inquired about the price. I had to have them repeat it.

The last I had priced at Wal-Mart was nearly $7 a bunch and a bunch wasn’t quite a pound. I later called our local produce place where I buy a lot of bulk produce and was told their 1# bunches were $3.99 each or 3 for $9. The feed store price was $2 a pound for firsts and $1 a pound for seconds. I purchased a pound of each.

For those of you who don’t know a second where asparagus is concerned is usually those super skinny stalks that despite how they look are tough just past the tip. I had a plan.

The first night I fixed a nice mess of asparagus on the charcoal grill to go with our grilled chicken for dinner.


I make this vegetable numerous ways, but this is one of the simplest asparagus recipes. I used a small loaf pan and placed some of the tender spears of the firsts after I had cut off the tough ends and fed those tough bits to the greedy geese. Over the tender spears I poured a mixture of lemon juice, garlic salt and black pepper (all mixed to taste) then topped it with pats of butter. A foil lid was added to the loaf pan and then it was set on the edge of the grill where it would get heat, but not boil dry. Simple, simple and delicious!

If you are using an indoor grill, like a Foreman grill you can let the asparagus set in the liquid for a while then remove, drain and grill it until tender crisp on the indoor grill.

That left a LOT of leftover raw asparagus. As anyone who has dealt with this divine veggie knows it has a short fresh shelf life and I knew we wouldn’t eat it all before it went ugly.

The next morning I filled the dehydrator with the remaining asparagus. ALL of it, including the tough parts. No I’m not insane, I’m a tightwad that is gazelle intense about getting out of debt.

After following all the usual cleaning standards for the veggie I trimmed the tender parts separate from the tough parts. The tender parts were put on two trays of the incubator in about inch long pieces-give or take.

The tough parts were also trimmed to that length, but the thicker pieces I also sliced in half length wise. From the remaining bundles of that $3 investment I filled a cheap round five tray incubator to capacity with asparagus. It ended up being three trays of the tough parts and two of the tips and tender pieces.

The reason I separated them is once they are dry it’s really hard to tell the tender pieces of stem from the tough pieces. Like I said, I had a plan.

I learned years ago that you can dry the tough parts of things like broccoli, asparagus and similar plants (as well as the peels from fruits and vegetables) and then pulverize them using either a mortar and pestle, a blender or a food processor into a nice powder.

This powder can then be added to any number of things to get the vitamins, fiber and other nutrients of the produce to whatever you are cooking from what many people throw away.

The tough ends of the asparagus are destined to become part of soups, omelets, soufflés, side dishes and many other things. I’ve added recipes for a few of these uses below.

As I cut up the beautiful CHEAP asparagus I thought about the BIG dehydrator I’ve saved the money for, but have not yet purchased. I decided it was time, but I was still leery of letting go of that much money. Gary, being the practical and loving husband he is, told me he thought I should order it that day.

He pointed out that even if the garden doesn’t make well there are always produce markets, u-pick farms and other places we could get a wealth of good healthy foods to dry. So I ordered it. I ordered the Styx Dehydra 800w with the bread/yogurt drawer from a gentleman on ebay. I also ordered some fruit leather sheets for it.

I much prefer dehydrating over freezing or canning of many fruits and vegetables for several reasons. The top ones being:

1. Ease of preparation, you seldom need to blanch, ice water dip or exact time.

2. Storage space is minimal for dried foods.

3. Shelf life is extremely long.

The unit is due to arrive here on Thursday. If the feed store still has good cheap asparagus on Thursday I will go get more asparagus. As long as it is that cheap and my asparagus bed isn’t up to producing enough for a year’s worth of mine and Sean’s need for that lovely green I’ll purchase and dry all I can comfortably afford. After all when it’s dried it will keep forever! (well almost).

BTW, drying foods is super easy. I’m self taught on doing it, canning and freezing were the way my mother and grandmother did things. Gary says he remembers his grandmother spreading clean sheets on the roof and drying apples up there when he was a kid, but that was the only experience he’d had with food drying as well.

I highly recommend two cookbooks on drying your own foods (and you can dry almost everything). They not only tell you how to dry the foods, they give you recipes to use the dried foods!

Those two books are:

Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrating Cookbook by Mary T. Bell

Making and Using Dried Foods by Phylis Hobson

I also recently stumbled across some interesting websites

There are numerous ones available and I really suggest you cruise around on them.


Sean’s tax refunds came in so he is now a debt free (except for Sallie Mae) man. So he was anxious to get started on his place this weekend. Right up to and including going to the home improvement center and figuring out exactly how much each of the 16 pillars was going to weigh in just the raw materials (cement, cinder blocks and rebar) and that we would have had to unload it the minute we got home because of rain in the forecast. When the weight topped 1,000 pounds it was more than he thought the three of us could handle that late on Friday night. So the purchase was put on hold.

Good thing it was, the next day I found two coupons mixed in some mail that will save him $35 on the first $300 of his purchase. Around here that’s a lot of money. So if the weather is good we’ll get started on the footing pillars next weekend.


To simply cook as a veggie:

Pour 1 c boiling water over 1 c asparagus spears or pieces. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender. This will yield 1 ½ c cooked asparagus

Cream of Asparagus Soup—using dried/powdered asparagus

In a soup pot melt the butter and cook  the flour

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

Season with:

Dash of nutmeg or mace (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Dash of cayenne pepper

Stir in:

¼ cup asparagus powder

1 1/2 cup milk

2 cups chicken broth or stock

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon onion powder or a small chopped onion

Heat over a medium heat until heated through thoroughly.

Asparagus Souffle

2 tbl butter

2 heaping tbl flour

1 ¼ c milk

¾ grated cheddar cheese

¼ c asparagus powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of nutmeg

5 eggs, separated

Melt the butter in a saucepan and then sprinkle in the flour. Remove from heat and whisk together well. Stir in ½ c of the milk and mix well again. Add remaining milk, whisking all the time a little at a time.

Return the pan to a low heat and cook until the mixture thickens, whisking as you go. Remove from heat and add all remaining ingredients except eggs. Let cool. This is your base.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat a six inch souffle dish, or four ramekins, in the oven to heat as it preheats just long enough to warm it. Then butter the dish/ramekin.

In a bowl beat the egg yolks well and then add them to the cooled base using a whisk.

Beat the egg whites until the form stiff peaks. Pour half of the base mixture over the whites, fold in gently. Repeat with the second half. Do not overblend.

Pour either into the souffle dish or ramekins


Souffle dish 30 minutes

Ramekins 25 minutes.

Marinated Dried Asparagus (basically a pickled asparagus)

Place in a jar and then shake together well:

½ c oil

4 tbl. Lemon juice

1 tbl minced dried celery

½ tsp minced dried chives

1 dried bay leaf

1 sprig dried thyme

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground paprika

Pour over 12-18 dried split asparagus spears that have been placed in a serving dish. Refrigerate overnight. At serving time remove bay leaf and thyme sprig.


  1. Wow Nancy,
    Nice Blog, have much to read in the morning, when I come back to your blog!! Especially since seeing the links to food storage and the Asparagus recipes! Love that I got back into dehydrating, now wish I had some asparagus! Love it!!
    Love how you can store so much food in so little space. Love to show people my quart jar of carrot slices that actually contains 25 lbs of carrots. Blows their minds. also love drying mushrooms.
    Well love the blog, but now that big hairy spider I saw blows my mind, don't know if me and TX would get along on that point, I hope to never see one that big in VA!!!! LOL, really I don't ever want to see one in VA!!

  2. I am loving getting back into dehydrating myself. I had forgot how much I already had stashed and have been finding jars of dehydrated foods everywhere as I am organizing my food storage. It's a great feeling to find them and KNOW they are still good!

    Thanks for visiting.