Monday, July 4, 2011

Refrigerator Pickles

Many of you asked for my refrigerator pickle recipe. Despite my pension for being a fly-off-the handle, vicious liberal with extremist tendencies...I still like to share.
This is a super-easy, basic recipe that can be adapted in many ways.
Get creative and add whatever you like to flavor your cukes.

1 1/2 c water

1 1/2 c cider vinegar (no need to get fancy...the cheapest vinegar will give you the best flavor)

1 Tbsp Kosher salt ( I like Morton's, that other stuff just doesn't cut it)

3 sprigs fresh dill still hot from the garden sun

6 gloves garlic, crushed but left whole (squoosh them with the side of a chef's knife...make sure you know the chef)

1 Tbsp peppercorns

1 small onion, sliced thinly

cukes..little ones left whole or big ones cut into spears

1 cool, vintage Mason jar or something along those lines


Stuff everything into the jar except the water and vinegar. It doesn't matter if you layer it or just manage to get it all into the jar. The pickles will look prettier if you use some form of rhyme or reason when placing all the ingredients into the jar.

Place water and vinegar in a small sauce pan. Heat until just before boiling. There is no reason to worry if the liquid actually reaches a boil. It won't make a lick of difference in the long run.

Pour the liquid into the stuffes jar. it should just fit.

Put the lid on the jar and leave it on the counter until it has cooled. Place in the fridge for 24 hours. Eat your pickles as needed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I finally took a day off and went to the garden. Today I planted radishes,Walla Walla and red onions and cabbage. The chives are abundant. Some garlic is coming up but it doesn't look so good. Oregano is spreading everywhere. The tarragon over-wintered and so did some English lavender.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mud Season...

The spring thaw seems to be coming and going and coming back and then going. Needless to say…we’ve got some mud out there. With mud season upon us it is easy to jump the gun and want to get the garden ready for planting cool weather crops. There are several that can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.

I suggest waiting. The ground can certainly be worked. All I have to do is stand in my rubber boots and I begin to sink in. It is still too wet to do much in the garden. Tilling or turning of the soil too soon will result in poor conditions later. Wet soil will compact easily and plants will have a difficult time getting established when planted after the fear of frost has passed.

Brussels sprouts, onions, rutabagas, carrots, spinach, turnips, cabbage, peas and broccoli can all be planted two to six weeks before our region’s frost date but until some of this mud dries up you don’t want to get ahead of yourself.

Soil can only take in and hold certain amounts of water. Recent snowmelt and heavy rains have saturated my garden, yard, driveway and pretty much every surface I need to walk on. Even the deck and porches have a nice covering of mud thanks to the four legged creatures I so graciously allow to live indoors with us humans.

I don’t pay much mind to the groundhogs in captivity. They are just an excuse for men to don a top hat and get on television. I know spring is just around the corner as the musty, putrid scent of skunk is apparent every morning. Skunks don’t actually hibernate in winter but they do get very lazy. Once they emerge from their dens you know spring is near as they begin their breeding season.

So March brings us mud and skunks? Sounds like a winning month. It’s not as bad as it seems. There is much to be done to prepare the garden and armchair gardening is just a small part of it.

Indoors you can repot houseplants that will eventually make their way outside in two months. You can also start feeding houseplants at this time. If you overwintered any herbs indoors you can repot them unless, of course, you plan on putting them in the garden. Don’t despair if they look really lousy. I have a 13-year-old lavender topiary that comes in every winter, mutters insults under its softly scented breath all winter and then thrives the moment I put it back in the garden in May.

If you mulched the garden, now is a good time to start peeling that off. Pull any weeds you see now before they go to seed. Trust me, you’ll see some. Don’t walk in the garden while it is wet if you can help it. Tools have long handles for a reason. You don’t want to compact the soil.

Cut back ornamental grasses left from last year. They have proved to be great hiding places for wildlife all winter but it’s time to give them a haircut. Compost the cuttings or scatter them about the yard if you want to provide material for the numerous birds beginning their nest building season.

Finish pruning trees. Bring some inside for forcing. Pussy Willow, Crab Apple and Forsythia will bloom in short order when placed in a large vase of water. What better way to get in the spring mood.

Invest in a good boot scraper. Trust me, mud season doesn’t pass quickly.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You are What You Eat

You may have read or heard about GMO or genetically modified organisms making their way into our food supply. GMO is the result of a laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic. This process may be called Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are the same thing.
GM food goes beyond selective breeding and grafting. Some plants are combined with animal and even human genes to produce desired characteristics. Imagine a frost resistant strawberry. The plant was spliced with arctic fish genes, yummy. No such product exists in your grocery store…yet.
No long term studies have been done to show that GM food is safe. The tests that have been done are done by the very corporations who create the seeds. GM foods are showing up everywhere. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association up to 75% of processed food in the US contains GM ingredients.
Most GM food is consumed when we eat processed food. Processed food containing GM ingredients include cereals, baby formula, bread, mayonnaise, hot dogs, salad dressings and corn chips. It is impossible to list them all because our government does not require labeling of food containing GM ingredients. Only certified organic foods are GM free.
Meat and dairy can be included as GM food because animals we eat or provide milk for us have been fed a diet consisting of GM crops.
Farmers who choose to grow organic or non-GMO crops are fearful of cross contamination because crops are pollinated by bees that can carry pollen for miles.
Many countries are saying no to GM foods. European nations oppose GM foods. Companies like Kellogg’s sell products in the US that contain GM ingredients but they manufacture non-GM products for their European customers who have spoken loudly and clearly about their desire to stay clear of untested, potentially hazardous food.
Opposition continues to grow about the safety of GM food. The key traits that have been added to commercial GM crops are herbicide tolerance, which allows farmers to spray GM crops with herbicide to kill weeds while not killing the crop itself, and insect resistance, particularly through the expression of Bt-toxin (a toxin produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis). Some crops possess both traits.
Growing your own food or purchasing it from a farmer you know will allow you to consume healthier, safer food. Cutting out processed food will virtually eliminate your chances of consuming GM food. These so called convenience foods are not necessarily so convenient when you consider the lack of testing on the ingredients and the potential dangers associated with eating food that is engineered to outsmart nature.
Nature provides what we need to grow food. She also gives us challenges that we overcome like too much rain, too little rain, too much heat, too little heat, insects and weeds. Herbicides and pesticides do not contribute to the health or delicate balance we need to raise plants or animals for food.
Humans have been farming for thousands of years without the use of herbicides and pesticides. One third of the world’s workers work in agriculture, but this giant workforce produces less than five percent of the gross world product. Our food system is broken.
Try growing some of your own food and if you can’t, buy some from a local farmer who can tell you how he did it. I can guarantee he wasn’t wearing a lab coat and a mask when he planted, nurtured and harvested his livelihood and your supper.

Photo courtesy of