As happens every year, winter finally arrived which meant the real absolute final end of the growing season for warm weather vegetables and herbs. Arugula, chard and kale – you guys keep growing while we focus on preserving your less hardy brethren.

This photo shows some of my favorite ways to preserve the harvest which include drying, brining, canning, fermenting, and freezing:

  • Lacto-fermentation (red and green cabbage sauerkraut, Kim-Chi)
  • Brined cucumbers (aka pickles)Preservation Nov14
  • Hot packed tomatoes (and a bowl of soon-to-be frozen yellow tomato sauce)
  • Dried peppers, oven roasted/dehydrated cherry tomatoes
  • Herbed vinegar
  • Drying purple basil, lemon verbena, bowl of thyme/oregano/Mexican tarragon
  • Not sure whether it is rooting or pre-drying – green pepper basil

Take your pick of processes and produce – these are all quick and simple ways to enjoy summer’s bounty during cold winter months.

Even though the calendar says summer is winding has wound down, it seems like my garden is was kicking into high gear in the fall.

GardenAugust  Just look what I picked not long ago!  This harvest includes lots of varieties: 7 kinds of tomato, 5 types of cucumber, 3 different peppers, two types of kale, an assortment of beans, bouquet of basil and some bonus sunflowers.


The tomatoes deserved special mention – these are Pink Brandywines. They are large, hefty, juicy and just plain delicious. Everything a tomato should be.




What is the point of having a bike if not to carry your Shiitake mushroom spore-ed and waxed log home from a mushroom cultivation workshop? This was just one of the many great workshops offered at a nearby rec center through DC Parks and Recreation.

Turns out it’s easy –

*  Got a (fresh cut hardwood) log?
*  Got a drill to make the right sized holes in the log?
*  Got mushroom spawn (medium that holds the spores)?
*  Got a wax to seal the spore in the holes?

If the answer to these is yes, then you’re well on your way (in just a few months) to enjoying homegrown shiitake mushrooms.

Why mushrooms? They’re nutrient rich (Vitamin B, D, iron), low in calories, high in fiber – and isn’t it fun to eat fungi?

You can also check out this TED talk on 6 ways mushrooms can save the world.


We flirted with fermentation a few years back with less than stellar results – the fermented green beans were good-but-not-great. Fast forward four years and it’s time for another try.

The route to this reawakened interest was roundabout, as is often the case.
*  A PoPvillager posted about her fermented garlic and how it cures all ills including, I believe, the common cold.
*  I bought some kimchi from a vendor at the Mt Pleasant Farmer’s Market – not knowing what I would use it for but it’s always good to have a container of kimchi on hand, right?
*  Then the NY Times food section had an article on grain bowls including a recipe for kale, quinoa and kimchi (which is why it is good to have a container of kimchi on hand).  I made this recipe on a recent visit to the farm and it was rated “3 excellents.” It also reminded my father of the sauerkraut his mother made when he was growing up – she always had a crock of freshly fermented sauerkraut at the ready.

I had already looked up “how to make kimchi” (here’s how) when I realized sauerkraut would be a a logical first step back into lacto-fermentation. Especially since it requires only two ingredients – cabbage and salt (the 3rd ingredient, caraway seeds, is optional).

Easy sauerkraut recipe here –and check back in a few weeks to see if this experimentation will be rated “3 excellents.”


Not quite like clockwork because it depends on seasonal temperatures and other factors, but twice a year the houseplants migrate – outside in the spring and back in right about now.

A challenge in finding the right winter spot inside is that over the spring/summer plants do what plants are supposed to do and that is to grow. Taller, wider, bushier, all of the above. So their ideal spot this past winter may not work this fall.

PlantMigrationNot only did plants grow, but cuttings stuck in soil also rooted leading to more plants. Some plants needed to be divided which means – you guessed it – more plants. I have a delightful overabundance of houseplants! Happy to have a PoPvillager to give extra plants a good home.

The first wave of migration was the orchids, this is the second wave. Last wave will be hardier houseplants and plants I’m overwintering like Vietnamese cilantro and ivy geraniums.

Here’s a few plant migration tips:

  • Check for pests on the stems and undersides of leaves. I usually give the leaves a wash in water to which I’ve added a small amount of mild soap like Dr Bronner’s. I’ll also give the pot a drench in the soapy water to eliminate bugs harboring in the soil.
  • Check to see if the plant is root bound – while repotting and root pruning is best done in the spring, sometimes the explosive summer growth means the roots end up taking all the space in the pot. I prune the girding roots and put the plant back in the same container (adding more potting soil as needed)
  • Don’t be surprised if leaves turn yellow or drop off  (my ficus always drops lots of leaves) as the plants adjust to different light and humidity when you bring them indoors

Speaking of extra plants, isn’t it about time for the first 2015 gardening catalogues to show up?




What to do with an armload of basil?

First off, start off by making some basil vinegar. Here I used red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar and rice wine vinegar. Champagne vinegar is also a good choice. I’ve become a fan of the “not hot” vinegar method – the hot methods has you heating the vinegar prior to pouring it over the herbs. For delicate herbs like basil, I prefer to combine clean, dry herbs with the room temperature vinegar and letting it sit for two weeks or so in a cool place.

Making pesto is another good option – chopping basil leaves along with olive oil and garlic in your food processor then freezing. I usually add the Romano cheese and toasted pine nuts, traditional pesto ingredients, later.

You can also dry your basil – strip off leaves from the plant stem – wash and dry and then dry some more then place in sterilized jar or ziplock bag. Alternatively, cut whole stems and wash, dry and and hang in bunches upside down.  When dry, remove leaves from stem and place in sterilized jar or ziplock bag

And, be careful out there. When you look around, there will be a re-growth of the basil plant and many more possibilities for preserving  your delightful overabundance of Ocimum basilicum.

Basil         Basil vinegar and pesto




It was a great night to be out on a pontoon boat on the river with the Anacostia Watershed Society – the sun was going down, light breeze, cool temps, good river guide and lots of BIRDS.

We launched at Bladensburg Waterfront Park and then floated down the river for about five miles, past Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, past the Arboretum (there where is a back entrance if you come by boat), past the PEPCO power plant that will be imploded later this year, past RFK stadium.  And when we couldn’t go any further (railroad bridge that could only be passed during low tide) we turned around and went back.

Saw osprey heading home with their supper, lots of blue herons (some gulping their supper), snowy egrets nesting in trees, a kingfisher, cormorants, ducks, geese,  starlings, barn swallows (nesting under one of the bridges) two deer and….drum roll….a BALD EAGLE.

A good overview of the watershed which includes historic and recreational sites along the Anacostia River can be found right here.

And a view of the Anacostia can be seen right here⇒ 



Garden cooking classes, for one. Also Intro to Permaculture, Food Justice, Music in the Garden and more.

While summer is winding down (according to the calendar) there is plenty more gardening to be done in the fall.  Information on this and other gardening classes can be found on the DC Parks and Recreation website here.




Helios Cukes

A few years back, I brought beans to Newcastle. This year, it was cucumbers.

It’s been a bounty year for growing cucumbers – my community garden plot has been producing 4 or more per day. My RDA is usually two, and despite giving them to neighbors and friends I always seen to have plenty extra. I thought I’d take a few up to the farm for some summer salads.

Farm Cukes

But lo and behold, the farm also has a full cornucopia of Cucumis sativus (cucumbers).  Fortunately the local food bank accepts fresh vegetables since every day at the farm saw another 7-10 ripe cucumbers. It was a delightful overabundance of this delicious cucurbit.








HeliosMonroe turned eight this year – happy blog birthday!

Recent Helios highlights include good gardening, giant sunflowers, house renovations, and lots of walks around Mt Pleasant with Mazie.  Other endeavors include the beginnings of a hop yard, planting a patch of  Allium tricoccum (ramps) and letting the sun shine in.