In February I started planting seeds under grow lights for the Guild Garden. I have never done this before and now have a greater appreciation for the professional growers who do this. It is so time consuming to do it as a non-professional grower.
However, it is exciting to watch the process of plant life unfolding day by day.
Planting a seed, watching it sprout and give birth to a life as a plant is a little like having your own child. It needs light, air, water, food, nurturing, thinning, transplanting and words of encouragement along the way! Yes, every morning I would walk into the grow light “nursery” and talk to those plants. “Good morning ladies, how was your evening, need a drink, feeling droopy, turned around to get more light”? Slowly, day by day from a tiny seed to a 12 inch tall plant. It’s a little like watching a miracle happen in slow motion.
I am an instant gratification kind of gal. So going through this process was a lesson in patience and persistence. I have always bought plants at the nursery and paid a pretty penny for them. I have never had to be patient or persistent when planting a vegetable garden. Well, that isn’t exactly true. I guess I did have to have some patience and persistence when I transplanted those beautiful plants but they were already well on their way to delivering the “fruit” of the professional grower’s labor who had done all the nurturing of the plant prior to my sticking it in the ground.
I’ve been a Colorado gardener for over 25 years now but still learn new things every season and sometimes have to relearn them year after year. For instance, Colorado is a very fickle growing area. You have to be patient and not let spring fever get the best of you. Planting before Memorial Weekend is very risky. A lesson I had to relearn again this year.
I stuck the cabbage plants in the ground in April in a hoop house in the community garden that I constructed from cloth, plastic tubing and dowel rods. A hoop house is a device that protects plants from frost. Right after I did this we got 12 inches of snow, had a hard freeze and the plot the cabbages were in was in 3 inches of standing water for several days. It continued to be exceptionally cold for over two weeks. The cabbages made it through all of this but they didn’t grow and it took them quite a while to get “going”. If I had waited another 4 weeks to plant them they would have been bigger than they are now and I could have saved myself all the trouble of building the hoop house to begin with! Same thing with the tomato plants. To be safe, we all should just wait till June especially if your garden is out in the open or in a windy spot like the Guild Garden
There are gardeners with a variety of experience in the community garden that the Guild has 7 plots in. Several have years of experience but quite a few of them are first time gardeners. It is such a hoot watching and listening to them. I get asked questions all of the time. Why do you water under the plant and not just spray water on the leaves, why did you build a hoop house, what’s that yellow stuff you put on your plot (sulphur, to try to decrease the PH level of the soil), why did you put plastic milk jugs over the plants and why do you take the caps off the jugs and cut out the bottoms, why do you pluck off the growth of the tomato plants that forms between the stem and a leaf? All valid questions. Mostly, I am just trying a variety of different techniques to see what works best.
The PH level of the soil in this garden is approaching 8+ and should be around 6 to be ideal. Its very acidic. So, it was supplemented with a bag of sulphur, cow manure, compost and in some cases outdoor potting soil. It is heavy with clay and I have never seen so many rocks in a plot that you could not turn the dirt over with a normal shovel.
It was hard work and will be worth it when we have fresh grown vegetables to eat.
The other thing I’ve been experimenting with this spring is smoking my own meat. Bacon from scratch is so easy a 5 year old could do it! And, I am here to tell you even some of my vegetarian friends have walked onto the deck and proclaimed bacon could be the one thing that would cause them to fall off the V-wagon and join the ranks of carnivores!
This bacon is far removed from the slimy, watery mess that we get in the grocery stores. It is meaty like ham, has little fat, is smoky and sweet depending on which wood is used during the smoking process. I could eat a couple of pounds a week and not bat an eye!
Dr. Collins, my cardiologist would have a heart attack if he heard me say this. I would gladly give up butter and cream for two pounds of “house smoked bacon” any day of the week!
Next on the list of food experiments is coming up with a few signature sausages. My friend, Paul Bonaquisti and his father, Robert taught our family their family recipe for making italian sausage a couple of years ago. It is so darn versatile and virtually fat free. I use it is soups, chili, burgers, for breakfast with maple syrup and in all things Italian. Making your own sausage is therapeutic like kneading bread and watering the garden. You can lose yourself in the rhythm of the process.
So, if you are in a Level I or the Level III Advanced Wine and Food Pairing class, or any of the Intensive format classes this summer and fall you can expect this Chef to be serving you food from the garden baring a bug infestation, hail, or the resident rabbits beating me to the harvest. You’ll get to sample the maple smoked bacon and the current Guild “house” sausage as well.
I will be posting new pictures of the garden each month with a little discussion about what has been happening. Have the “girls” died, needed a haircut, gotten sick, had a sudden growing sprout, been beaten up by the elements, or thrived because of some crazy thing this gardener and Chef decided to try? Stay tuned.
Foreground are the red & yellow heirloom tomato seedlings
Background: The hoop house without the cloth cover with the cabbages. Next to the cabbages are the dwarf sugar snap peas and the purpleletta onions
Left side of the black landscape cloth are the poblano peppers then to the right are the eggplants
Foreground is a piece of landscape PVC pipe that the lumber yard cut into eight lengths for me. They act as hose guards are are hollow so I planted them with flowers. Behind the hose guard are the grape tomato seedlings and a plot with 4 styles of onions.
Photo #4: Behind the red hoop hose guards are the delicata squash. Growing on the left side of the A-Frame are the pickling cucumbers. On the right side of the A-Frame are the zucchini. To the left of the A-Frame are two rows of garlic.
Food and Wine Pairing
I wanted to thank you immensely for an inspiring and perception altering class experience. I am looking forward to the possibility of the August Level Two class so much so, that I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. You and your wife did an outstanding job from beginning to end. I think the most humbling part about the class as a whole was,...now I can never approach a wine dinner the same.
Your mission with me was a success and I cannot stop thinking about all the new skills I can now employ to better my experiences, as well as my customers. You have a top notch organization and team. I look forward to your continued success and also to more wine education from you & your staff. Thank you very much.
Victoria Country Club
We have had such a positive response to those of you who like the wine reviews we are going to add another review: wine and food pairing.
I have done, literally, hundreds of formal wine dinners in addition to the dinners we do at the Guild in our Advanced Wine and Food Pairing Course. (A Level III Course.)
Once a month, I am going to write an article about wine and food pairing using as a menu one of the graduation dinners from the Advanced Wine and Food Pairing Course or one of our Guild wine dinners.
Here is the menu from the just graduated Intensive Study Advanced Wine and Food Pairing Course (completed the course on July 31st). Their theme was "old world wines." In addition, the students, as a group, must pick the wines and be able to defend their choices to the instructor.
Cured salmon with bok choy in a spicy ginger dressing and sesame crisps
Trimbach, Alsace Riesling, Cuvée Fréderic Emile, 2002
Sous vide pork belly stuffed in peaches with pecans and savory cabbage
Guigal, Gigondas, 2006
Redbird chicken stuffed with Tillamook cheddar and broccoli potato gratin
Domaine Barge, Condrieu, "La Solarie", 2007
Creme Brulée with bananas and caramel
Schmitges, Erdener Herrenberg, Riesling Eiswein, 2004
Given the combination of salmon and spicy ginger - this wine was chosen to reduce the impact of the spice, bring the dish in to balance and allow the salmon to "show" rather than be overpowered by the sauce.
The Sous vide of pork belly (roughly, pork belly cooked in warm water - not boiling) is not as rich as other cooking techniques for pork belly. In addition, some fruit character was needed on the wine to stand up to the peaches. These were the critical elements. The Gigondas is medium-bodied and medium-dry; having just the right combination of extract, tannins and body to complement these needs without overpowering the flavor intensity of the dish.
This white wine from Condrieu is bigger than the red wine, the Gigondas, that preceeded it. The chicken was served with the skin on; with the cheese and stuffing placed between the meat and the skin when it was roasted. The potato gratin also added to the richness of the dish. The Condrieu had the ability to match the richness of the food, without making the combination seem even heavier. At the same time, it allowed the cheese in both the stuffing and the potato gratin to act as a bridge between the center-of-the-plate and the side dish.
When pairing dessert wines to dessert one guideline must always be remembered: the wine needs to be slightly sweeter than the food. Also, the wine must have some way of "creating tension" between the sugar of the food (and wine) and the rest of the chemical structure of the wine. As with most German wines the tension is created by acid in this wine - the acid wipes the sugar off the palate, making the wine and the dessert seem refreshing, not cloying. The "noble rot" in this wine, with it's distinct honey characteristics, made an excellent complement to the Creme Brulée and caramel while the acid of the wine kept it all light on the palate.
Again, these wines were chosen by the students - a good indication of how much they learned about wine and food pairing during the course. The instructor is not allowed to intervene or make suggestions about the pairings.
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