Oi Sobagi – Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi

Earlier this year I got Lauryn Chun’s “The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi” from the library. I have made simple kimchi in the past with Chinese cabbage and bok choi from our garden and I was interested in expanding my repertoire focusing on the things I grow.


One of the ingredients the recipe called for and that was mentioned in several other recipes in the book is Korean chives or or buchu. When I was reading the description I started to wonder if that was one of the plants I was growing, having scavenged it from the weed pile. There are advantages to being in a community garden with a large international population! The description of my odd little clump of chives matched—flat leaves and with a slightly garlicky flavor. I would also add that there is a definite grassiness but I don’t know if that’s normal or because it is in the process of flowering. In any case, I used it.



The stuffing consists of the chives, grated carrot, sugar and Korean hot pepper flakes. I didn’t have any of the pepper flakes so I substituted Penzey’s Medium Hot California style. The proportions I used for everything were a little off from the original recipe because I made a reduced size batch. Next time I will grate the carrot finer and use more of it.


After they are salted, drained and stuffed, the cucumbers get packed in a jar and sit at room temperature to ferment for a couple of days. Since it was so warm here I stuck them in the fridge after just a little less than a day to chill them and slow the fermentation.


The verdict is in and this recipe is a keeper! I’ve saved a few more from the book to try including another cucumber kimchi and a contemporary stuffed tomato kimchi. I’m looking forward to trying them out.

Have you wandered from the mainstream kimchi path? Where did it take you?


Late July to Early August in the Garden


What says summer more than a bee visiting the wide open spaces of a sunflower? I’ll tell you what—heat, mosquitoes and thunderstorms. At this point in the year we’re low the first two of those but it is finally raining nicely even as I write this.

The garden has hit that point in the year where I get to carry the occasional weighty load back to the car. Some croppage more serious than handfuls of salad fixins has been coming in. Warning: Lots to share so lots of pictures below! But don’t worry, we’ll pause for tea after a bit.

Tater Damage

Starting in the potato corner, here is one of the chewed up plants. I haven’t found any Colorado potato beetles but there were some slugs seen, probably the result of burying the plants in leaf mulch and straw to get tubers along the stems. Since the plants were looking on their last legs, er, roots I dug around with my hand in the box and discovered once again the box method didn’t work. Red Norlands, the type shown here,  aren’t an indeterminate variety. One more try next year with the right variety and then I go to a more traditional technique if that doesn’t work.


In my digging, I did find a nice handful on top of the soil below all the mulch. They made a delicious grilled accompaniment to some salmon.


Next to the tomato box and overshadowing it is my towering tomatillo. I grew it upward with the help of a cage, some bamboo poles and twine. It’s almost as tall as me and threatening to tip over.


Look at that beautiful, fat fruit! I’m going to have plenty for all the salsa, enchilada sauce, chili and curries I want to make. I wonder how many beginning gardeners have ever wondered if one tomatillo plant would be enough.


What was not entirely beautiful was the hornworm caterpillar I found creeping about the tomatillo. Yes, they’re amazing and turn into big, beautiful moths, but I tossed it on the path. They’re so big I can’t bring myself to squish them.

Mint Pot

The last couple of times I harvested mint I was noticing there were two kinds growing in the sunken, bottomless pot. One had thick, rough leaves and the other had thinner, narrower leaves. Unfortunately the second kind was growing more vigorously than the first which I prefer for food and beverage applications. I dug the whole thing up and selected out the preferred variety and replanted it with some delicious (to a mint plant) compost.

Wis Lakes

The peppers are really suffering from the lack of heat I mentioned above. Plants are about half the size I would expect at this time. I even fertilized carefully before I planted them. They’re just very slow. A shot of epsom salts greened them up a bit but that’s all. This Wisconsin Lakes plant did put up one big fruit but with inadequate foliage it got sunburned. That’s something you need to watch out for with peppers but not everyone thinks about this with a heat-loving crop. I’ve harvested a couple of bright red jalapenos but they have absolutely no heat to them.

Hot Hulia

This pepper, on the other hand, seems to be doing fine. This whole plant, including the pointy fruit is only four inches tall! I call it “Hot Hulia” because my friend Julia gave it to me for my birthday nearly a year ago. It was taller then, but I brought it through winter indoors and it died back a bit on the top. Doubtless it was sold as an ornamental plant, but I harvested and dried the peppers and they are HOT! I’m going to make a chili powder with them when I get around to it.

Amish Paste

The tomatoes are right on the brink of producing enough fruit to start canning. I did peel, core and freeze a small container the other day to save for a big canning session and soon there will be more to join them. The Honey Bunch cherry tomatoes are producing enough for a salad every couple of days and the Chocolate Cherry is about to take off, as well.

Black Trifele

These are the tomatoes that have me most excited, though. They’re my first Japanese Black Trifele, a Russian variety despite the name. I’m letting them get perfectly ripe on the counter before tasting them. They’re reputed to have outstanding flavor. In just the few days since I picked these they’ve gotten beautifully dark. I think tonight’s the night.


The basil is doing OK. The Thai and lemon varieties, which we don’t eat much, are doing much better than the Genovese, which we do. Still, haven’t made any pesto yet. The odd leaf or two has made it into a salad or other dish now and then.


Here come the beans! Despite scattered reports of Mexican Bean Beetles throughout the gardens they apparently didn’t get a foothold like a couple years ago. Yay! And now the pods are ripening and drying and the plants are dying back. At least the bush beans are, the pole beans are still going strong. I’ve harvested almost all the Pinto beans and a few Great Northerns so far.


In other leguminous news, the peanuts seem to be doing better than the last update but not great. I’m blaming the cool weather on this, too. There have been a few more flowers but I doubt I’ll try growing these again, at least not without better soil and maybe some early warming technique like black plastic.

Compost Tea

Halfway through the beds it’s time to stop for tea. Manure tea, that is. I’m steeping some composted manure in water which will be diluted and fed to select plants like the peppers and tomatoes, probably starting this week. I’ve heard it works wonders.


Adjacent to the compost buckets the latest planting of beets is struggling along. They’re competing with their Cousin Chard for light and I think I planted them just when it stopped raining regularly. Frankly I’m surprised they’re still alive.

Sweet Tater

Another crop suffering from the weather is the beloved sweet potato. When I planted them it was nice and hot and then the temps dropped the next week and stayed comfortably low. Another crop I’ll consider carefully in the future whether I want to chance it. Although, I guess anything I grow has a chance of receiving less than ideal weather. Note to self: Plant a selection of crops that take a variety of weather scenarios so something will do well.

Oca Cilantro

I’ve been transplanting cilantro seedlings into random open spots like here among the struggling oca. Cilantro’s a cool weather plant so I’ve been able to grow it later than usual this year, but it still seems to go from seeding to flowering plant over night. Another plant I’ve been surprised by is my broccoli. It’s still putting out little, harvestable florets. In August!


The Bush Delicata squash is doing great, better than its cucumber cousins who are succumbing to something after getting off to such a great start. The label you can see here is made from a piece of aluminum window blind. I write on them with those little paint pens and though the colors fade some, they can last right through winter. There’s your tip for the day. I use paint pens for anything that goes outside now instead of Sharpies and they last way better.

Malabar Spinach

The Malabar spinach has finally decided to climb and is now above the leaves of the squash. I’ve munched on a couple of leaves and they’re OK. They do taste like spinach but the texture is a little different. Soon I’ll find an appropriate recipe and make something with it and report back. I’m open to suggestions!


Look! The Brussels sprouts are sprouting sprouts! I have two plants, planted too close together, of course. We’re going to have lots of them this year. Thank goodness they freeze well. My family and co-workers may get these instead of honey for Xmas this year. Similar enough, right?

Red Zepellin

All the Sweet Spanish Yellow onions have been pulled and are curing and now most of the Red Zeppelin have come in. A few are still standing strong, but…

Open Ground

…that left some open ground. Notice two things. First, it’s unplanted but not bare. I keep mulch everywhere to prevent weeds from getting started. Second, it doesn’t look like this anymore because I planted something else right away. Keep that soil working! Romaine lettuce, broccoli, and two kinds of bok choy have gone in as wee seedlings I started in the basement.

OK, we’ve completed the tour of what’s interesting in the garden. Would you like another cup of the tea? No? Oh, I see you haven’t touched the first one. No worries.

Unknown Flower

Before you go take a look at this pretty flower growing by the community compost area. I have no idea what it is. There are several colors of it and it looks great, in my opinion. If you know it’s identity, share in the comments before you go. Please leave your mug by the bucket and have a pleasant rest of the day!

Early-Mid July Garden Update


Sunny, day-glo greetings from Plot 206! I know I just did a general update a couple of weeks ago, but as every gardener knows, at this time of year so much is happening. The Calendula are blooming, for example. This hot orange beauty was self-seeded from last year’s. I just moved around the seedlings I found as needed and it turns out they’re all this bright, happy orange. Much as I like the color, I’ll try to remember to start some more for a mix next year. Not all insects might be big fans of this particular shade.


And now for some bad news. We left town for a long weekend and took a head of our awesome Romaine lettuce with us expecting to come home and enjoy the remaining three heads. Not to be. They’re bolting so into the compost they went and beets were sown in their place.


And speaking of beets, look at these! I pulled a few of the red and gold to roast for a salad. I love beets.


Further on the subject of colorful roots. I pulled a few carrots, Yellowstone and Atomic Red. The color of the latter so far appears to have been greatly exaggerated in the catalogs. I’ll let some get really big and see if that makes a difference. To be honest, the flavor of both of these is unimpressive. Carroty but not especially sweet. Might do better cooked.


Ready for a break from the hot colors? How about these blue beauties? The blueberry bushes were looking a little peaked so I gave them an acid boost a while back. It will be a while before they’re back up to snuff but thanks to the row cover to keep the birds off we were able to harvest nearly a pint. Not a lot, I know, but they’re OURS.

Let’s see what else is going on…

Bush Beans

Pole Beans


The pole and bush beans are going crazy and the peas are on their last pods and starting to brown. Again, loving the Sugar Snaps. Even when they’re filled with full-sized peas you can eat them pod and all and they’re crunchy and sweet with only a little, easily-removed string.


The peas are host to this fuzzy visitor. It doesn’t even matter if he’s munching the plants because they’ll be gone soon. I suppose for the sake of science I should make a little effort to find out who he is.


This was a big surprise. Seven-inch cucumbers! The plant itself is not much bigger than a dinner plate at this point so I wasn’t checking it for fruit yet.


Over in the onion bed every yellow onion was laying down and every red one still standing. Uniformity in a cultivar, I guess. We pulled all the yellows and they are now happily curing on the patio. I’d like to add, we’re still using last year’s onions, one went into tonight’s dinner, in fact. It’s just cool that we’ve done a year without having to buy onions. I think I planted fewer this time so we may not be able to repeat that accomplishment going into 2015, but at least we know we can do it.


The Malabar spinach is coming along suddenly, or one plant is. I’d be interested in hearing what other people’s experience has been growing and eating this particular vegetable. They’re on a three-sided tee-pee around the squash with the idea that they’d grow up above it and not be shaded by it but the squash is growing much faster…


The Bush Delicata has had several blossoms and is forming its first fruit. Like most plants it kind of poked along and then, seemingly overnight, doubled in size.


A favorite crop I forgot to mention last time is the tomatillo. Since it got so wide and rangy last year I’m confining it in a light bondage contraption consisting of a tomato cage and bamboo. It doesn’t seem to be suffering from the treatment and is covered with blossoms and swelling husks. I think we’re eating out of our last jar of tomatillo salsa so we should be getting fruit just in time. Salsa, enchilada sauce, curries—I can’t wait!


And now the excitement builds…Red tomatoes! They’re not fully ripe, but this small handful of Honey Bunch counts, in my mind, as the first tomatoes of the season. (I need to find a more convincing garden hand model. Those callus-free hands are just not doing it.) But is this the MOST exciting development? Perhaps not…


Yup, this is half of the neglected neighboring plot with waist-high weeds going to seed all over the place. While we were out of town it was surrendered, divided in two and reassigned. The gardeners with the half next to us (you can see our Malabar spinach tee-pee there on the left) got to work right away and I couldn’t be happier. OK, I could be a little happier. Someone was there when I went up last evening and had borrowed my hose without asking. She was apologetic and I was friendly and complimentary of the work she’d done even as I commented she’d be getting her own hose soon, no doubt.

Thanks for coming on this little tour with me. I hope the mosquitoes weren’t too bad. Surprisingly as they’re horrible everywhere else this year I hardly get bitten while in the garden. I do appreciate that you take the time to stop here and read and comment and I enjoy my (almost) daily ritual of catching up on all the gardening blogs I follow. I think we learn so much from each other and as little as I get around to doing it, I appreciate the work that goes into these things. Keep up the good work and happy gardening!

What? Salmon Chili?!?

Yes. Salmon chili. I only kind of like salmon. I know it’s good for me and  it’s usually one of the fish I choose when selecting off a sushi menu. But when confronted with a slab of salmon I either just manage to eat the whole thing without a thought or have to gag it down, if at all. Last night we tried a recipe from our salmon supplier, Sitka Salmon Shares, and it was delicious! The tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and black beans were all from the garden. I’d eat this again in a heartbeat.

Salmon Chili 2-8-14

Queer Cheese

Recently we made an Alsatian tart with quark. No, it was’t filled with the subatomic constituents of protons and neutrons. But, then again, I suppose it was. This version of quark is a fresh cheese from central Europe.

Then, as luck would have it, a magazine arrived a few days ago with instructions for making quark from scratch. We felt we had to try it.

The recipe is pretty straightforward. Heat up some whole milk and add some buttermilk when it cools a bit. Let it stands a while, you’ve got quark!

Unfortunately it didn’t work that way for us. Once the required waiting was through we just had a pot of slightly stinky dairy liquid. We didn’t know what went wrong, but suspect the buttermilk culture wasn’t alive. Figuring we had nothing to lose at this point we started again with the heating step and the same liquid, this time putting in some kefir which was practically indistinguishable from the buttermilk. Again, no thickening or curdling.

At this point I took a wild guess that there just wasn’t enough acid and proposed we run our much-abused dairy mess through the foolproof method of making paneer. We warmed the stuff again, stirred in a bit of lemon juice, and in seconds had curds. We poured them into a strainer lined with my super secret substitute for cheesecloth (thoroughly washed sheer curtain panels from a thrift store) gave them a quick rinse with cold water, and wrapped and weighted them to drain.

This morning I unwrapped the creamy, mild cheese and declared it adequate. Not quite quark, not quite paneer, ladies and gentlemen, I give you queer.


The co-conspirator thinks it would be fine spread on a bagel or crackers. It needs salt. I may try mixing some herbs into it.

Have you had a kitchen failure you kept hammering at until you got something decent? Please share it with a story or link in the comments.

French Sorrel

One of the interesting phenomena of being able to tend the same kitchen garden year to year is the way the so-called garden seasons can overlap. Garlic planted in the fall emerges in the spring. Biennial crops can be overwintered in the ground, root cellar or crisper drawer to be replanted for seed production. Perennial herbs and fruits return–hopefully–like reliable friends every year.


It’s that last category I used in my first fresh-harvested dish of the season. When I inspected the garden recently one of the emerging signs of life was the French sorrel plant. It’s an herb I tried last year for the first time, not really knowing it was perennial. Since I was anxious to say "I cooked something from this year’s garden!" I grabbed a couple leaves a week later and sliced them up.



Tasting them it was evident the fully flavor hadn’t developed yet. There was a faint hint of lemon and sourness but mostly it just tasted green. I went ahead and scrambled the leaves into some eggs with a little butter. In the end, it wasn’t offensive by any means, but I don’t think it added a whole lot either. In any case, I got my first meal featuring this year’s produce.



Now I’m curious about other uses of French sorrel. It’s a productive plant so when I read the traditional recipes for soup or salmon with sorrel sauce I don’t balk at the amount they call for. I wonder if two of my favorite g0-t0 dishes for green leaves could be adapted to accommodate it, saag and pesto. Do you cook with French sorrel? What are your favorite dishes? Please share in the comments if you have a delicious, brilliant idea.


Today’s leafy, spring-green post is part of Post Produce hosted by Daniel Gasteiger over at Your Small Kitchen Garden. Check it out!

Freezing Garlic

I’ve been having some anxiety lately surrounding garlic. More specifically, I’ve started to worry that all the garlic we grew and stored last summer wouldn’t last until we’d used it.

Garlic is a great vegetable. So many of my favorite dishes include it and it stores so easily that it seemed logical that we should grow a substantial quantity of those funky, fragrant bulbs. In the past, we’ve purchased winter farmers’ market garlic that was dry, dusty and frankly moldy so I wasn’t overly optimistic about keeping garlic in Wisconsin through the winter. When I harvested our crop last summer I hung it in baskets in the basement to cure a while before tying it in garlands to hang in the fruit room/root cellar/server closet—it is the Twenty-First Century after all!

Since that room is visited frequently, I was keeping an eye on the state of the bulbs and have been happy with how they’ve been keeping. Lately, however, I’ve noticed the outer skins on some of the bulbs I’ve brought up to cook with have been more dry and looser. Also, some bulbs are showing sprouting cloves. They’ve got nowhere to grow at this point and are still safe to cook, but I decided that just in case I’d process and freeze some of them. I selected the remaining five bulbs of ‘Tai Lang’ for this project. Incidentally, I’ve found nothing about this cultivar online; Googling it just brings up my own references to growing it. All I know is I bought it at the Westside Community Market and the seller said it was hot.

The first step in processing garlic for freezing is to peel each individual clove. When I’m doing one or two or five for a recipe I just cut off the root end, halve it lengthwise and then flake away the skin with a knife. To peel quantities of garlic I use a faster method. First, separate all the cloves in the bulb and cut off  the root end. Then, lightly crush them with the flat of your knife. Be careful. You’ll end up with a chaotic pile of garlic cloves and papery skins.

Next, get a couple of bowls, preferably stainless steel, that are close to the same size. In a pinch, you can just use a bowl and a plate.  Put your distressed garlic cloves in the bowls and get ready to rumble!

Cover one bowl with the other and sha-a-a-ake vigorously. Listen to the tone and you can actually hear when the cloves have been removed from the skins. It’s pretty cool and I’m sure there’s some big-ass industrial machine out there that uses the same principle to do the same thing. Now you just pick the oh-so-tasty garlic cloves out of the skins and set them aside.

Next, chop the garlic to make it easier to dispense and use. Either coarsely chop it by hand if you have the time and patience. I didn’t so I used a mini food processor. Don’t overdo it. If you want a finer chop later you can always do it then.

The final step is to get some protection on those chopped cloves. Drizzle in a little olive oil and stir it into the chopped garlic. A little goes a long way! The key is to coat the cloves without having them swimming in it. Stir thoroughly so that they’re completely coated. The oil will keep the garlic from turning ugly colors and also make it easier to spoon out the quantity you need when cookin’ time comes around.

Finally, put the oiled garlic in a jar and screw that lid on tightly. Keep it in the freezer and just scoop out however much you need in your future cooking. You’ll thank yourself for putting in the effort now not only for saving yourself the chopping later, but for also saving some produce that may not have lasted until the next crop comes ready.How do you keep your garlic? I’d be interested in hearing new ideas on growing and storing one of my favorite crops. Comment or email to share your ideas.

This riveting, stem-grinding offering is part of Post Produce, hosted by Daniel Gasteiger over at Your Small Kitchen Garden. Check it out!