I’ve been inspired recently to start making my own soups. Simple soups that are made from simple ingredients you can grow in your own garden. The plan is to make a variety of soups in bulk over the winter while our woodstove is burning, so we’ll have delicious homemade soups on hand all year long. I’m also going to start posting the recipes as I experiment and discover ones I like (see the new ‘Cooking’ section on the menu).
I’m calling these “Homestead Recipes”. They taste best if you use homegrown vegetables and cook them on a wood-fired stove.
Potato & Corn Chowder
This is my new favorite chowder. It will ruin you for store-bought soups. Very simple but loaded with flavor.
- 4-5 yellow potatoes (eg, Yukon Gold), cubed
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup cream (half & half)
- 2 cups sweet corn
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 bay leaf
- (optional) 3 strips bacon
- Bacon bits
- Shredded cheddar
- Sour Cream
- Cut bacon into bits. Fry up bacon and set aside. (skip this step for vegetarian)
- Saute onions and garlic in bacon grease (or olive oil)
- Combine onions, garlic, potatoes and chicken stock in stock pot. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes on wood-burning stove.
- Add corn, salt, cream, and bay leaf. Continue simmering uncovered 20-30 minutes or until potatoes reach desired consistency.
- Add toppings and serve.
Makes 2 quarts.
With the new barn construction taking most of our attention this summer, we didn’t have as much time to devote to the garden. But we still managed to get our favorite crops planted: tomatoes, corn, peas, onions, potatoes, beets, cucumber and another testbed of watermelon (we have yet to be successful with watermelon).
By the way, did you know beets make excellent salads? Just chop up the beets and leaves (throw the stems) and add some dressing. We’ve been eating them daily around here. In fact, beet greens are the healthiest part of the plant and are ranked among the world’s top 10 healthiest foods!
The main lesson I learned from last year was that you can’t slack on the weeding and “make it up on volume”. It’s much more productive to plant a smaller garden and keep it well weeded that a huge garden that doesn’t get tended. The harvest of corn, peppers, potatoes and onions last year was pathetic where I let the weeds take over.
Another lesson learned is how incredibly “fruitful” our perennial fruit plants are. The blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and apple trees are healthy, abundant, and require almost no work on my part. Minimum input, maximum output.
This has led us to more conversations about what other kinds of fruit we should be planting. Cherry, apricot, peach and plum trees may be in our future.
The only trick is finding ripe fruit before our kids do.
A few days ago one of Becca’s friends was visiting and asking a lot of questions about getting a new garden going this summer. Becca told her she would undoubtedly make a lot of mistakes but the important thing is to try, and keep learning.
Well, I’m still learning and still making plenty of mistakes. This week we discovered our potatoes had begun to sprout in the basement. We hauled in over 120 lbs of potatoes last fall, but sadly only went through a quarter of them before discovering this box. I figured they could easily last the winter if I sealed out the light. After all, how did the farmers of yore keep a seed crop until the following spring? But it turns out potatoes only keep about 2-3 months, even under optimum conditions.
This morning I discovered that the last box of potatoes had sprouted so vigorously the vines pushed the lid a few inches off the top!
Oh well. I guess next year there will be plenty of leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.
With the exception of cucumbers and sweet peas which started ripening in late June, we’ve been waiting patiently for most of our garden to get to the harvest stage. It looks like harvest is now upon us. In the past week I have harvested:
- 65 lbs of potatoes (about 1/4 our crop)
- 7.5 lbs of beets
- 9 lbs of tomatoes (with many more coming)
We’ve also plucked salad greens, cabbage, swiss chard, beans, carrots, eggplant and late-season strawberries.
Plenty of peppers are ready to harvest too, like this one called Cherry Bomb, because it feels like a bomb went off in your mouth if you try to eat one:
The sweet corn is just about ready too, except we came home from a family vacation to find many of the best stalks shredded and ears of corn eaten. It was raccoons, of course.
It’s the risk I take, not having a fence. I would have been more upset except the anemic growth of our corn this year didn’t produce much. I either planted the corn too close together or the weed pressure was too high (or both). However, in my no-till experiment, the corn stalks are mammoth. Look for a post on that later.
My pumpkins are growing great but watermelon and cantaloupe are struggling. Again, I think the weeds won the day in my melon patch.