Take Me to the Wies’n

Towards the end of August, I took a quick road trip to visit my cousin and her family in Ohio. They’re lucky enough to live within a stone’s throw of Germania Park, where we attended the annual Oktoberfest hosted by the Germania Society of Cincinnati. This Oktoberfest is held earlier than the one in downtown Cincinnati, but it was still enormously popular. They had a midway with rides and games, a sheltered area with a huge dance floor, and tents with alpine souvenirs. As to be expected, there were men in lederhosen and loferl, and I spotted many women wearing beautiful dirndls. I also had the joy of watching my cousin’s family compete in the rope pulling contest.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I smuggled a pre-cooked Beyond Meat bratwurst inside my satchel — which I paired with sauerkraut and Düsseldorf mustard that I ordered at the park. It might’ve been the best idea I’ve ever had, but I’m crossing my fingers in the hope that someday, the Germania Society will sell these meatless sausages at their events.

We had so much fun and to top it off, my cousin’s hubby managed to score us a ride home on a golf cart. I hope to go again next year. But I must say, the fun wasn’t limited to Oktoberfest. I got to do a little day drinking at Jungle Jim’s (a huge international market) and stocked up on my favorite hot sauce. I got to soak in their hot tub under the stars while we listened to the crickets. I got to pick handfuls of wild strawberries and feed them to their chickens. It was a perfect long weekend spent with some of my favorite people and it made me feel grateful to be alive.

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Easy Pickled Purple Cauliflower

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I love all vegetables (with the exception of raw tomatoes) but one of my absolute favorites is purple cauliflower. I went to the farmers market yesterday to pick some up and almost didn’t find it – out of nearly 40 stands I spotted one farmer who had 3 heads of it – so I snatched one up just before closing time. I had originally planned on sharing my recipe for refrigerator dill pickles using cucumbers since we have a bumper crop in the back yard, but the visions of magical purple pickles were too thrilling to ignore.

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I wanted these pickles to harness as much Wisconsin terroir as possible, so all ingredients (save for the vinegar and salt) were sourced locally. The rosemary is from my garden, the rest of the vegetables (and honey) were obtained at the farmers market. I have to admit that these pickles are the most gorgeous color I’ve ever seen and they taste fantastic. The recipe is pretty forgiving, so substitutions can be made based on what’s available.

Honey Garlic Pickled Cauliflower with Banana Peppers

The quality of these pickles rely on using the freshest possible ingredients, so try to use locally grown produce if possible. Additionally, banana peppers are typically mildly hot but mine were quite spicy, so keep that in mind if you’re sensitive to spicy foods.

12 ounces purple cauliflower florets
1-2 banana peppers, sliced into 1/4” rings, seeds removed if desired
6-8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups filtered water
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt
3 tbsp unfiltered honey

Place the cauliflower florets, banana peppers, garlic, and rosemary sprigs in a jar or a container with at least a 6 cup capacity. In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, and sea salt to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt crystals. Remove from heat and stir in the honey. Immediately pour the brine over the vegetables. Cover and let the pickles cool a bit before placing in the fridge.

Store the pickles in the fridge for up to a week. The pickles will be ready after a day or two, depending on your personal preference. If you sterilize the container before adding the ingredients, you can safely store them for a few weeks.

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Do You Carrot All?

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My nephew turns 9 today so we decided it was time to let him pull a few carrots. He was so excited to see the different colors! We also harvested some pickles, Persian cucumbers, edible flowers, cherry tomatoes, a scallion, and some herbs. I’ll be posting a recipe tomorrow for quick and easy refrigerator pickles so check back soon!

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August Abundance

We started harvesting the first tomatoes a couple of weeks ago. This one is an indeterminate heirloom cherry tomato called ‘Snow White’ – it’s actually pale yellow and the plant is incredibly productive! Everyone who tried these tomatoes have liked their flavor, too.

This year I planted Wasabi Arugula and was blown away by how much it tastes like wasabi! I had several people try it at our family reunion and ended up sending seeds home with a few of my cousins. I will definitely be planting this one yearly from now on, I think it would be incredible rolled up in some avocado and cucumber maki, or incorporated into a cold soba noodle dish with ginger-sesame dressing. The plant next to it is ‘Cherries Jubilee’ nasturtium. My niece and I have been snacking on the peppery leaves – they taste like watercress! The flowers are so beautiful.

My nephew planted some Persian mini cucumber seeds in spring and I didn’t think they were going to survive. They were transplanted twice and I didn’t fertilize them for over a month. I was wrong. These just started producing about a week ago and he was so excited to harvest the first one yesterday. It was sweet and delicious. I also planted two ‘Kirby’ pickling cucumber plants under the deck and they’re growing like weeds. We’ve been harvesting a handful nearly everyday and I’m going to making some dills this afternoon. They’re delicious eaten fresh, too.

Perhaps the most exciting development is this softball sized watermelon, and the healthy carrot patch. We thinned the carrots a bit yesterday and the kids got to have them as a snack. It’s so fun to grow things that I’ve never attempted to grow before and I’m already thinking about next year’s garden plans. My nephew wants to grow chili peppers. I agree!

I also have to share a quick update on the flower seeds that we direct-sowed in early June. No blooms yet, but the plants are huge and should start blooming in another couple of weeks (fingers crossed). I’m so impatient to see the heirloom sunflower open up, the wait is driving me mad! 😂

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Hot in Madison

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Maxwell Street Days in Madison, WI

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m currently recovering from an intensely hot (and busy) couple of days. A friend invited me to Madison for a quick overnight trip to celebrate her birthday, and I gladly accepted since we so rarely see each other these days. This trip had everything: delicious beer and a Bavarian pretzel at The Great Dane, a Farmer’s Market, Maxwell Street Days, delicious coffee, and quality time with quality people.

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Vegetable garden on The Square

Once I arrived in town, we headed to dinner at The Great Dane – may I suggest the Crop Circle Wheat Hefeweizen if you’re there to drink – and we were feeling a bit rushed by the waitstaff. It turned out that their AC wasn’t working so they had to close early. This happened on the same day that two separate fires in the city resulted in power outages for approximately 12,000 residents of Madison, and it couldn’t have happened on a worse day (there was a heat index of over 100 degrees!) To make matters worse, our server forgot to give back my debit card and I didn’t realize it until the next day. But we still had a nice dinner despite the minor infractions.

The next morning we braved the heat and went to the farmers market and ogled the most beautiful locally-grown fruits, vegetables, honey and maple syrup, fresh baked breads and pastries, jams and pickles, and everything in between. After we finished making the loop, we were in desperate need of some iced liquids and AC so we headed to my new favorite coffee shop in Madison.

After taking our sweet time cooling off inside Ancora we decided to check out Maxwell Street Days for the short remainder of time I had before it was time for me to leave town.

No trip to Madison would be complete without entering the state capitol building and rubbing the badger’s nose for good luck, so I obliged. I did manage to make it almost all the way home before the torrential downpour, so there you have it.

Oh, and I have an exciting garden update coming up soon so watch for that later this week.

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Signs of Life

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I started collecting knick-knacks for a gnome village. It’s a work in progress.

And some blue things: my borage is getting massive, and I found a big pile of Blue Jay feathers this morning. I suspect it was an owl’s dinner but it’s hard to know for certain.

We finally had a break from all the rain and the garden is starting to explode. All the seedlings have true leaves and it’s very exciting to see how much taller they get each week.

The sunflowers, carrots, and watermelons are just getting started.

Meanwhile, the tomato plants are getting huge in no time. The one in the pot is a patio variety called Big Dwarf and the one in the cage is a white cherry tomato. Life’s too short to grow boring tomato varieties if you ask me! I planted borage and basil next to them, since they’re excellent companion plants.

My niece is having fun watching her seeds grow too, including this very healthy patch of cilantro. She loves checking the alpine strawberry plants each week to see if any are ripe for picking. And my nephew is excited to watch his cucumber plant get bigger and bigger each time he visits. We have big plans for refrigerator dills in our future. 😉

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Better than Nothing

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I wish I could present you with an exciting garden update, but we’ve had some pretty lackluster weather since the start of spring so there’s not much to see yet. I did get the rest of my seeds planted as of last week Sunday and most have started to emerge, but they’re still too tiny to capture with a camera lens. So instead, have a look at what’s to come:

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My dad built this prototype raised bed planter for carrots and other root vegetables. There’s a v-shaped insert to allow enough space for deep taproots. The screened cover will hopefully deter the deer from grazing, and is removable for watering and harvesting.

I just tucked the last of the summer annuals into the front yard flower bed. And I must admit that I’m really pleased with how these begonias are looking in this galvanized pail that I scored at the hardware store (several small drainage holes were drilled into the bottom before planting.)

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The birdhouse trellis will soon be covered with sky blue morning glories, and the square cage is currently protecting some small sunflower seedlings from the family of rabbits living under the deck.

I picked up a handful of tomato seedlings at the Ozaukee Master Gardeners plant sale a few weeks ago and after a weeklong hardening-off period, they are settling in quite nicely.

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A hand-built cedar tomato cage that withstands severe midwestern thunderstorms.

That’s about all I’ve got for today. I will do my best to update this space a little more frequently, as inspiration allows. Here’s to dirty fingernails and muddy knees. 👩🏼‍🌾

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