But what do you eat?! Wednesday

After doing lots of reading around the blogosphere for tips and information to help me make my own blog better, I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers are doing a similar feature to my “But what do you eat?!”, setting aside a weekly column to show pictures to give a “day in the life” snapshot of their food intake.  Most of these columns are using the name “What I Ate Wednesday”, and after searching a bit to see where the term originated and to make sure that I wasn’t stealing an idea from anyone else, it seems that this terminology is just part of the food blogging zeitgeist and therefore fair game for anyone to use.  Since it is really a very catchy name, and does manage to communicate a bit more information than the column title I’ve been using, I’ve decided to transition to using “What I Ate Wednesday”, so this week’s title is somewhere in the middle.  It will be the same photos and comments on what I ate for that day, just with a hopefully more informative and accessible name.

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I woke up late on Tuesday morning and ran straight for the coffee.  I know, I have a problem.  I am finally getting around to drinking locally-roasted Zeke’s Coffee that we purchased at the FarMar the first week we went.  We’re drinking the fair-trade Hippie Blend, and it is fantastic.  It has a light to medium body but an extremely smooth finish, with almost no bitter undertones, which is rare for anything that’s not a light roast.  Usually I prefer a darker roast and a full-bodied flavor, but this blend proves that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor when you reach for a lighter roast.  I drank two cups of coffee while making a double batch of  soy yogurt and some almond milk.

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Because of my late start, I didn’t get around to eating breakfast until lunchtime, after my almond milk was refrigerating and my yogurt was incubating.  Breakfast was a small serving of blackberries (all that was left from the Farmer’s Market) and a few slices of cranberry orange bread, washed down with some almond and coconut milk.  No, that was not a typo, and I didn’t mix two types of milk together.  Blue Diamond has recently started making an almond and coconut milk blend, or at least my local supermarket has recently started carrying this blend, which I had never seen before.  I won’t say anything about it yet as I plan to do a review later in the week.

After Pilates, a shower, and some housework, John came home.  We did some more housework and got some organizational logistics worked out, and then I was hungry.  John’s stomach wasn’t feeling well, so since I would be dining alone, I decided to just finish off some leftovers instead of making a meal just for me.

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I finished off the last of the green bean, kale, and fennel stir-fry with tofu and sesame seeds, served over ramen with tamari and sesame oil.  It was amazing.  Stir-fries make the best leftovers, and this one was no exception.  After this huge bowl of food, I was completely stuffed.

After dinner we watched the Mad Men finale, and then we had to spend some time recovering from the Mad Men finale.  Picking ourselves up off the floor, dusting ourselves off, etc.  I won’t say anything else in case you haven’t seen it, but something about it struck very close to home for me, and I needed some serious family time after watching it.  After talking with John and going for a walk with the puppies I was ready for some dessert. Enter Biscoff.

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If you’ve never heard of Biscoff spread, allow me to introduce you.  This is a spread made out of COOKIES.  A Belgian company makes a cookie which is popular in Europe but not as well known here called a Biscoff cookie.  I’ve never had one, but from what I can gather from the spread it tastes like a gingersnap and a sugar cookie got together and gave birth to deliciousness.  Then some genius Belgian decided “Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if we just ground up our cookies with some oil and made a spread out of it?”.  And the answer, my friends, was yes.  It was awesome.  And so addictive.  I know the idea of a cookie spread just sounds overly decadent and unnecessary, but once you try it you will wonder where it has been all your life.  It’s definitely not health food, but it doesn’t contain any animal products, and a few spoonfuls after dinner is exactly what you need sometimes.  Seriously, go try this stuff.  I recommend crunchy, because I like the cookie bits, but I’m sure the creamy is good too, especially if you intend to class it up by putting it on toast or fruit instead of just eating it straight out of the jar like I do.

So obviously, dessert was a few spoonfuls of Biscoff spread.  After doing some reading, the dogs were getting cranky and tired, so we called it a day and went to bed.

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Garden Update

All of a sudden my garden is full of (very welcome) veggies and (not-so-welcome) visitors.  I guess summer finally decided to show up and everything started to kick into high gear.

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Here you can see that the caterpillars which thought of my collards as a four-star hotel with full service buffet have been hard at work munching small holes in the middle of leaves and larger chunks out of the sides of leaves.  I had been going out every day and looking over (and under) the leaves trying to figure out if manually removing the little guys had done the trick, but every time I went out, I would see no caterpillars but more holes in my poor collards.  After a few days I decided that I needed to fight back.  I would have much preferred to just remove and relocate the cabbage worms, but I assumed that if I couldn’t see any to remove but the leaves were still sustaining damage, that would not be an option.  Convinced that I would walk out the next morning to two boxes full of cruciferous stalks, all leaves completely decimated,  I ordered some Safer Caterpillar Killer from Amazon, local express delivery of course, for faster collard rescue.

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I have since treated the leaves twice.  After the first application of the highly unwieldy white powder, applied all over the leaves, generally more evenly than what’s shown in this photo, I found several dead caterpillars baked onto the leaves, so I thought the problem was resolved, but the next day a few white moths were flying around the collards and sure enough, the problem started again soon after, so I hoped another application might do the trick.  I might have to go ahead and get some netting and set it up around the collards to keep the moths from laying their eggs in the leaves.  The powder contains Bt, or bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacterium that is found in the gut of caterpillars and worms that, when ingested by those species (and those species only) causes them to stop feeding immediately and then eventually starve, unable to continue eating.  Since it is a naturally occurring bacterium, it is considered compatible with organic gardening, but I still don’t like the idea of those caterpillars starving to death, even if they’re starving to death while not eating my collards.  Unfortunately, since I’m container gardening in a very limited space, I don’t have the option of using integrated pest management techniques like interspersing other crops with collards or releasing/encouraging a wasp population to prey on the cabbage worms (not sure if that one is a kinder option anyway).  I think some netting might help to keep this from becoming a recurring problem, however, and that is definitely something I can do in a container garden.  I’ll be looking into it this week.

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I have also re-“pot”-ed my collards, as you can see.  They were getting too large for six plants to be in one container, so we took another plastic storage container, drilled holes in the bottom, and used it as a planter.  Since this container was deeper, more so than the collards’ root system needs, and would have just used up a lot of extra potting soil, I put some empty plastic two-liter bottles in the bottom to make the “pot” lighter and take up some unneeded space.

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Then I put four plants in each container, so they have a bit more room to spread out, which they are hopefully still doing even with the ongoing caterpillar invasion.

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This little guy was the other visitor to my garden this week.  Sorry the picture isn’t clearer, but he was very tiny (but very beautiful – the photo does not do that bright orange stripe justice).  He had built a web between my pepper plant and my parsley and was hanging out, looking at me while I was watering the two plants.  Because he was directly in between two plants and I would have had to break his web to move either plant, John relocated him to the grass, so I hope he has found a more permanent home.

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Now moving on to the veggies!  After the first cherry tomato that ripened last week, the remaining three all ripened at the same time this week.  Here they are on the vine…

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…and then on my counter.  I ate the first one right after picking it and washing it, and it was delicious.  It definitely tasted better because it had come from my garden.  The other three are still on my counter.  I want to figure out if the flavor changes at all if you let them sit after picking.  Can they still ripen some even after being picked?  We’ll see if it affects the flavor at all.

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I repotted the cucumber into a larger home and gave it four full-size stakes to climb on, and it seems to be loving the new arrangement.  As you can see, it has exploded in flowers, and is climbing so fast it has already almost reached the top of the full-size stakes.  Do they make extra-long stakes?  I’ll have to look into that.  But the most exciting part of my cucumber plant being so happy is that it has a baby cucumber!

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Again, photo quality not so great, but the cucumber is the weird prickly-looking thing on the other side of the unopened flower.  It is still very small, so zooming in on it with a cell phone camera is difficult.  The important part is that at some point this summer I will be able to eat at least one cucumber from my garden!

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My pepper plant more than any of the rest has decided to get in on the “Carpe diem” action and start making fruit.  Here you can see three little peppers where flowers once were, but there are about five more tiny ones on the top that are not pictured.

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Close-up shot of one of the little peppers.  I love how it looks exactly the same as a full-size pepper, just miniaturized.

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Here you can see how large my herbs are getting, especially the basil in the middle.  The basil is almost to the point where I will actually be able to harvest enough to use without worrying about the plant being unable to recover.  You can also see that I took the windowbox planter that I previously had two collard plants in and repotted the herbs into it after moving the collards to a larger home.

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In the center here is our tomatillo plant, which we are experiencing some issues with.  It’s growing like crazy, so much so that I had to repot it and put in a full-size stake, which it has almost overgrown.  The leaves at the bottom are a second plant which was attached to the very edge of the root system when we first got the tomatillo.  Since we know that tomatillos cannot self-pollinate, we thought that we’d be able to get fruit since we do technically have two plants.  However, even though the plants have both been flowering consistently, we have not had even the beginnings of a tomatillo.  Is it possible that the “second” plant was actually an offshoot of the same plant and because of that it still cannot reproduce?  All my other plants are self-pollinating, so this is very new to me.  Any guidance from experienced gardeners on this issue would be much appreciated.  I don’t have a problem getting another tomatillo plant if that’s what we need to get them to fruit, I just thought that since we had two plants, they would be able to reproduce, but that does not seem to be the case thus far.

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Here you can see how ridiculously tall my Rutgers tomato plant is, and how it is already overgrowing its new tomato cage.  So tall, but still not even a bud of a flower.  I hear that the secret to getting tomatoes to flower is to stop feeding them, so I’m not going to repot or mix in any more flax meal and hopefully that encourages this plant to start fruiting.  Any experienced tomato gardeners out there know if this is the right course of action, or is there something else I can do?

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I repotted the parsley as well, but it is already getting too large for that container.  I might just have to start buying 16 inch planters for everything so I don’t have to keep repotting these guys all the time!  The garlic plants are both in need of new pots as well as the root system is starting to grow into the bottom of their self-watering planters.  I am unfortunately out of both larger pots and potting soil, however, so they’ll have to wait.  The aloe plant is in the middle of the shot, happy as usual.

The composting is really not going well.  The bottom third of the container has started to rot instead of compost, and it is quickly becoming a sticky, smelly mess that is impossible to turn.  Which only compounds the problem as air is unable to get in, accelerating the rotting and making composting impossible.  We purchased another five-gallon bucket and are going to try to salvage the top portion, and we have started a new portion at the bottom of the empty bucket, this time adding in a lot more “browns” (i.e. lots of cardboard and paper).  We’ll add in what can be saved from the previous batch and then, depending on how bad the rest of it is, we might have to get rid of the bucket.  We’re starting to suspect that it might not be possible to compost in a container without truly being able to turn the material, but we haven’t given up yet.  We’re hoping we need to just keep the pile a bit smaller and keep a close eye on the balance of nitrogen to carbon.

Farmer’s Market Haul

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We got a lot of great stuff at the FarMar on Sunday, including several things I’ve never tried before.  From left is a huge bag of purple kale, a loaf of Canela cranberry orange bread, which we have unofficially decided is our favorite, a purple pepper (never tried before), a monster zucchini, more pickling cucumbers, a green pepper, and three bulam, also known as Korean avocado squash (never even seen before).  I love trying new produce, and I was really excited to find a vegetable that I’d never tried before.  It’s easy to find exotic fruit at places like the Asian market, fruit that has never seen the shelves of an American supermarket, but there aren’t many veggies that are new to me.  We haven’t tried the bulam yet, but I’ll definitely include more info in next week’s post after we cook it.

I finally managed to use up the last remainders of the fennel I got the first week we went to the Farmer’s Market.  All that was left was what didn’t make it into the fennel spinach soup, about a cup of fronds which I had dried.  That along with the green beans from a previous week’s excursion and half the kale from this week went into a stir-fry with tofu, fresh ginger, sesame oil, tamari, mirin and sesame seeds.

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I served it over ramen noodles, because we are just that classy (really because they are super-cheap, and very filling), and it was amazing.  The fennel added an interesting depth of flavor to the dish that I don’t typically associate with stir-fry.  It had lost some its anise notes in being dried and had taken on a brighter, almost lemony quality that brought a nice acidic contrast to the umami flavors of the tofu, sesame and tamari.

Last week’s basil went into my first recipe from Kathy Hester’s The Great Vegan Bean Book, Almost-a-Meal White Bean Pesto Muffins, which I did not photograph as they turned out embarrassingly lumpy, although delicious.  Breakfast is my favorite meal to cook, and muffins are probably my favorite breakfast to make (and to eat), and I’ve never met a bean I didn’t like, so I thought this recipe sounded perfect for me.  If it sounds a little odd, putting beans into a muffin, let alone for breakfast, don’t worry, the beans are pureed into the batter and you really can’t taste them at all in the finished product.  You just end up with a delicious basil-flavored muffin with 4.5 grams of protein, which happens to go perfectly with your homemade rhubarb strawberry orange jam.  The jam turned out perfectly, by the way – a bit thick, but it packs a huge burst of sour and sweet flavors unlike any commercially made jam I’ve ever eaten.  But back to the muffins.  They were a great savory breakfast that went very well with a sweet spread but would have stood on their own as well and would have paired nicely with a soup.  I’m pretty impressed with Kathy Hester’s latest book so far.  If she wanted to write a cookbook exclusively consisting of vegan muffins, with or without beans, I would totally buy it.  Just putting that out there.

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That brings us to my pickling adventure!  We used all the pickling cucumbers we bought last week, which ended up making six pint jars of pickles.  We went with a classic dill recipe, but ran out of dill seed for our homemade spice mix after the first four jars, so we had to use a commercially prepared pickling spice mix for the last two.  We’ll see how the flavor compares once we open the second jar.  After letting the pickles cure for a week, we opened a jar with the homemade spice mix.  Overall I was impressed with the crispness and the flavor, but I found that the red pepper flakes we used as part of the spice blend overwhelmed the dill flavor somewhat.  I also think the fact that we used apple cider vinegar for the brine might have affected the flavor as well, taking it slightly out of that traditional dill pickle flavor realm.  Don’t get me wrong, I was pleased with our pickles, but I wanted them to be the quintessential pickle experience, and while they’re good, they are not the ur-pickle.  But making them was a lot of fun and I will definitely try it again, tweaking the recipe slightly next time.

I am really enjoying making preserves and pickles – anything that goes into a mason jar seems like a pretty good time to me.  It’s going to be some time before we can eat all six jars of pickles, but in the meantime, I’d like to try making another jam or jelly.  I’ll probably try blueberry, since that’s what is in season here, but please let me know in the comments if there’s another flavor you’ve had success with that you think I should try.

 

 

Product Review: Good Karma Flax Milk

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I was pretty excited when I spotted Good Karma Flax Milk at Roots, our local organic market.  I love flax seeds.  I put them in every baked good that comes out of my kitchen, in granola, in oatmeal…really in just about everything I eat for breakfast.  So when I saw this opportunity to get even more flax seed into my diet, I jumped on it.  Hooray essential fatty acids!  And not to sound like a flax milk infomercial, but, as the package boasts, a serving is only 50 calories, with as much calcium as dairy milk, and the added bonus of 1200mg of alpha-linoleic acid (Omega-3), 345mg of linoleic acid (Omega-6), and 385mg of oleic acid (Omega-9), which can be more difficult to obtain on a plant-based diet.  Of course the major drawback as compared with other alt milks is that flax milk, like coconut milk, has no protein.  In this respect it can’t measure up to soymilk, with approximately 6g of protein per serving, or almond milk, which at least has 1 g of protein per serving.  But as I personally find it more of a challenge to obtain EFA’s on a plant-based diet than to obtain protein, I’ll give flax milk a pass on the protein front.

I was not previously familiar with Good Karma as a company.  They are based in the US and their products are American-made and verified non-GMO, although in the case of their flax milk not organic.  This is the first of their products that I’ve tried, but after trying it I’m a fan.  The texture is very creamy, comparable to soymilk, and is not thin or watery like rice milk or bad almond milk.  It worked equally well in baked goods, in smoothies, and just sitting down to drink a glass with breakfast.  Though I finished off the container before getting a chance to try making yogurt from it, that will be my next experiment after stopping by the market again.  The flavor has a creaminess as well, with a slightly flaxy finish.  If you eat flax seeds regularly, you’ll know what I mean.  It’s a strange, but not unpleasant, aftertaste that is equal parts bitter, nutty, and green.  If you’ve never tried flax seeds and that sounds disgusting to you, don’t worry about trying flax milk.  The aftertaste is much less pronounced and more mild, even rather pleasurable, at least to my palate.  Don’t expect it to taste like dairy milk, but it’s probably the closest approximation in flavor to any alt milk I’ve tried.  It doesn’t have the characteristic soymilk flavor or the nuttiness of almond milk to take away from the creamy, smooth flavor.

Bottom line: I could keep waxing poetic on the glorious creaminess of flax milk, but really, you don’t want to read that.  Go buy some.  It’s great.  Highly recommended for everyone, on every diet.

Ingredients: All Natural Flaxmilk (Filtered Water, Cold Pressed Flax Oil), Evaporated Cane Sugar, Tricalcium Phosphate, Vanilla Extract, Canola and/or Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan, Natural Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12.

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Product Review: Daiya Strawberry Cream Cheese

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When I saw this product on the shelves of our local organic market, I let out a squeal of excitement so loud the people around me were backing away.  But I couldn’t help but be excited over a new “cheese” product from Daiya, makers of the best and most meltable dairy-free cheeses I’ve tried, and when I saw they had included a strawberry flavor in their “cream cheese style spread” line, it was all over.  Back in my dairy-consuming days, I used to love strawberry cream cheese, and although Tofutti makes a good plain cream cheese approximation, I had yet to see a dairy-free strawberry version.  Since it’s probably been about twelve years since I’ve had strawberry cream cheese, this product had a long period of fond memories to live up to, but I had to try it.  So we picked up some bagels and grabbed a container.

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Here is what the spread looks like after opening the package.  The dark spots are bits of real strawberry, which is nice, but the aroma that you get when you open the package is a bit more artificial strawberry.  This was a great sign.   Artificial strawberry flavoring is true to the strawberry cream cheese experience.  The consistency is like slightly warm dairy cream cheese: solid, but very easily spreadable.  If you stuck a knife upright into the product, it would fall over slowly.  This is an interesting contrast to the Tofutti product, which has a thicker texture.  If you stuck a knife into Tofutti cream cheese, it would stand there for awhile.

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You can get a better idea of the consistency of the product here, thanks to my hand model John.  It’s almost more like a dip than what I remember to be the texture of cream cheese, but granted, it has been a very long time since I’ve eaten dairy cream cheese.  But it still smells great, so texture is kind of secondary, right?  Things are still looking good for Daiya.

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As you can see in this action shot, the Daiya is highly spreadable.  A plus for easy bagel application.

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Cinnamon raisin bagel, post cream cheese.  Looking delicious.  And then I took a bite…and it only took a second to realize that this product was not for me.  The texture and flavor of the spread is so highly reminiscent of dairy cheese it was slightly unsettling and more than a little unappetizing for me.  The strawberry flavor was delicious, and I can recognize that part of the flavor as good, but mostly when I tried to eat this my brain was just screaming at my mouth: “Cheese!  It’s cheese, get it out get it out get it ouuuut!”  Not really a pleasant bagel-eating experience.  However, I don’t want to fault Daiya for creating an imitation that is too realistic.   If you currently eat dairy products or have stopped consuming them fairly recently, you might love this.  It’s been so long since I’ve eaten dairy that my body has an aversion to anything that is too similar in flavor or texture to the real thing, but John, who only stopped eating dairy several years ago, thought this product was great.  He loved the flavor and texture, so it’s likely that the visceral reaction I experienced would only be something that those who have had many years to build up a distaste for “dairy-like” products would also have.  So definitely give this product a try if you currently eat dairy and are trying to cut down or eliminate it from your diet, or if you are relatively new to eating dairy-free and can still think about cheese or milk as delicious food concepts.  If you eliminated dairy from your diet a long time ago and the thought of dairy is a bit nauseating, stick with Tofutti, which is close enough to the original to satisfy a craving but not too close to freak out your cheese-wary brain,  or make your own.

Ingredients: Filtered Water, Coconut Oil, Tapioca Starch, non-GMO Expeller Pressed Canola and/or non-GMO Expeller Pressed Safflower Oil, Evaporated Cane Sugar, Strawberries, Potato Starch, Pea Protein Isolate, Sea Salt, Vegetable Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Lactic Acid (for flavor), Natural Vegan Flavors, Titanium Dioxide (a naturally occurring mineral), Fruit and/or Vegetable Juice (for color), Vanilla Extract, Vegan Enzyme.

Strawberry CC nutritionals

 

But what do you eat?!

John and I got up shortly after dawn on Wednesday to take the dogs to the dog park where they can run around off-leash safely in an enclosed area.  We like to go really early in the morning, especially in the summer, because the temperature is much more reasonable than it will become later in the day, and also because our dogs, while sociable, get overwhelmed by the presence of too many dogs at one time.  They are rescue dogs, so their background and experience before they came home with us is not entirely clear, and they have some unconventional behaviors and anxieties that many dogs do not experience.  We tried our best to socialize them in many different situations with many different people and dogs, but Bear is still afraid of garbage trucks and Sophie still wants to run home when she sees a large group of people.  They are kind of weird, but we love them, and they seem happy, so we just go with the weirdness most of the time and let them be who they are.  To be honest, we get a little overwhelmed by the presence of too many dog owners at one time, so we’re OK with it.

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When we got home from the park it was time for coffee.  Two cups of mocha java with agave nectar and French Vanilla coconut milk creamer later and I was back in the land of the conscious.

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After coffee was breakfast: a vegan cinnamon raisin bagel with Tofutti “cream cheese”

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…and a glass of flax milk.  The last time we visited our local organic market, they had flax milk and Daiya vegan cream cheese, both new products (at least new to me), so we picked up some of both to try.  I will be posting reviews of both of these products later this week, so I won’t go into detail here, but notice that I drank some flax milk happily, while I did not eat any Daiya cream cheese.

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After a few hours of writing and a banana for a snack, I made some soup and biscuits for lunch.  The soup is adapted from the Italian-style potato and escarole soup from Nava Atlas’ Wild About Greens cookbook, but with kale substituted for escarole (no escarole at the farmer’s market, plenty of kale) and double the chickpeas (because why not?).  I just got this cookbook, so this is the first recipe I’m making from it and to be frank I was not impressed.  The soup was OK, but just OK…kind of like chicken soup but with lots of kale instead of chicken.  Simultaneously odd and unremarkable.  The biscuits are the herb garden biscuits from jae steele’s Ripe from Around Here, which are basically the greatest biscuits you will ever taste.  This book is amazing, probably my favorite cookbook ever.  It takes a vegan approach to local, seasonal food, and every recipe of the many I’ve tried from this book is simply but mind-blowingly delicious.  You should probably go buy it right now.  I’ll wait.

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OK, back?  Good.  Please excuse this unappetizing picture, both for not being tremendously photogenic and for my chipped nail polish.  Before dinner I was starting to get a migraine, so John picked up some takeout for me so I wouldn’t have to cook and could just relax.  It’s a “No-Meato burrito”, a vegan burrito with Spanish-style rice, black beans, roasted peppers, spinach, and guacamole from local chain California Tortilla.  After dinner I was stuffed and sleepy, so I went to bed a few hours later without dessert (but also without a migraine).

Garden Update

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I actually have a vegetable to harvest!  This particular cherry tomato finally decided to ripen, and I’ll probably pick it tomorrow when it becomes deeper red.  I’ll actually get to eat something from my garden!  It won’t last long, but after five weeks I’ll get to harvest and eat from my own garden!  This is very exciting.

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Here you can see the full view of the cherry tomato, in the back left.  In the front are the two garlic plants, which are starting to get really tall.  The aloe plant, in the middle, has grown several inches since I got it, which is a lot of growth for a succulent.  In the back right is the tomatillo, which I’ll be replanting this week to separate the larger plant from the smaller plant and the seedling which are all still hanging out in one pot together.

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Here is the Rutger’s tomato plant, now in its new, larger home.  It’s getting so tall even a full-size stake is not enough to support it, so I’ll be building a tripod with two more stakes this week to help keep the plant standing.  Still no signs of any flowering.  It just keeps growing taller and taller but I don’t even have the very beginnings of a tomato.  Any advice on how to get a tomato plant to fruit would be appreciated.

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In this picture you can see the weird stuff my cucumber plant is doing.  It’s in the back of the picture, and you an easily see that it has a lot of new growth, with many small vines snaking off in all directions, but several leaves are brown and shriveled.  The rest of the leaves and large and a bright, deep green, and the plant is obviously continuing to grow, so I’m still not going to worry about it, but if anyone knows what is causing this, I’d love to know.  I supported the four vines growing off the central plant with four half-size stakes, and that coupled with a larger pot appears to have encouraged growth.  I am considering repotting the cucumber into my rectangular windowbox-style planter.  I wonder if it would be happier if it could climb along the “ground” rather than climbing up a stake.  You can also see the parsley plant in the front left corner, which is also starting to overgrow its pot.  Once again, there is a lot of repotting in my future.

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In this picture you can see my herbs (front left), and the significant growth on the basil and thyme.  The pepper plant, which is on the front right, is starting to develop little buds that hang from the main stalk, so hopefully that means I’ll have little peppers soon!  In the back are the two collards in the windowbox planter.  Although these collards were fine, their sisters in the converted plastic box had a serious plant emergency this week.

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You can see in this close-up view of the center of one of my collard plants that it looks as though something has been chewing on the leaves.  Upon looking closer, I found the culprits: cabbage worms!  It seems that white moths lay their eggs on the leaves of plants in the cabbage family, and they hatch into small green cabbage worms, which feed on the leaves.  From what I’ve read they are highly destructive and can decimate a collard crop very quickly, so I was a bit panicked.  I almost ran out to buy some Bt, which as a naturally occurring bacterium is considered organic, but John persuaded me to let him try simply removing the worms and any visible eggs and then spraying them with water to remove anything we might have missed.  That was yesterday and I haven’t seen any more worms today, so it seems to have done the trick, but I was pretty worried.  I have to say, I never understood why all farmers don’t use organic methods, but after feeling the anger and panic of your “crop” being in danger, I can completely sympathize with the urge to use a pesticide which will have rapid, noticeable results.  I still have no plans to abandon vegan organic gardening, but it really changed my perspective on conventional farming.

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The collards are still doing well, all things considered.  They are getting so large I might have to convert another plastic container and put only four plants in each so they can really spread out.  Some of the leaves have a few holes in them from the cabbage worms chowing down, but it seems like I caught the problem early.  I’m hoping for the best, but checking the plants every day.

The compost is much the same as last week, so no pictures this time.  John added many more air holes to the bucket, so there are now holes all over the lid, top and near the bottom of the container to encourage air flow.  I noticed that we were getting some food remnants stuck to the bottom of the container and forming a sticky film over the bottom, so John thought increased airflow would help to speed up decomposition.  The maggots are gone, thankfully.  I think I can only deal with one kind of insect invading my garden at a time!