June 2003 I
Advice and tips on
© 2003 Janelle N. Seavey
Companion Planting – a gardening system using the natural affinities
of plants to promote or inhibit growth in their neighbors. Knowing which
plants like each other and which ones don't can increase the health and
vitality of your garden, improve the taste and nutritional value of your
vegetables, confuse pests so you can eliminate toxic chemicals, attract
beneficial insects and add to the enjoyment of gardening.'
Janelle gardens on about four acres
on the Messalonskee Stream, an outlet from Messalonskee Lake, one of the
Belgrade Lakes Region Lakes, one of which is Great Pond, made famous in
the movie "On Golden Pond".
She is an "enthusiastic
and a tad obsessed" gardener who has been companion planting for over 20
"Little Siberia" index
Books - Companions
The Dreaded Algae Season
I thought I had cover crops, well, covered. As I wrote in a previous
article, I have very heavy, clay-clogged soil. My garden has had more
amendments added to it than the Constitution. Manure, peat moss, compost,
grass clippings, leaves and chopped straw have all done the "Dance of
Death" with the clay. Many a fall I have cleaned up the remnants of the
garden, tilled it and planted winter rye as a cover crop of "green
manure". If we are blessed with a mild autumn, I have been able to till it
under before the ground freezes and the snow flies. Some years, it has
wintered over to be tilled under in the spring.
As I write this, near the beginning of June, we are entering something
like our 1002nd day without sunshine or any discernable let-up
of rain. Oh, I know what you West Coast folks are saying, "Get a grip, you
big baby, we don’t see the sun for 2 months at a time!" With all due
respect, I know that to be true, but neither do you have the kind of
winters we New Englanders do. We kind of feel entitled to something better
than this, especially after peering at the world from over the top of a
scratchy, wool scarf for the past 7months.
There is an upside to all this, however. I have discovered what I
believe to be a revolutionary, new concept in cover crops! Algae! That’s
right, green slime! The paths between my planting beds are hosting a
bumper crop of algae. With all the rain, I have not been able to work up
the soil between my plantings. The surfaces that are not sprouting veggies
are instead turning into an amusement park for frogs. I swear I saw two
frogs sliding across an algae patch on their backs into a puddle next to
my weary looking tomatoes. I figure if I ever get onto the garden again
with my little tiller, I may be applying for a patent for "Frog Fun
Fertilizer". It is said Maine ("Little Siberia") has 5 seasons, summer,
fall, winter, spring and "mud" (a totally mucky time between winter and
spring). I will now add to this, "algae season".
Obviously, this has caused a delay in some of our spring goodies. I
have managed to come up with a couple of tasty uses for those delicious,
tender stalks of asparagus that have struggled to pop up, as well as some
of the baby lettuces and greens the frogs have been sliding past on their
way to the puddle.
(* Please note: I encourage the use and growing of locally and
organically produced ingredients where possible.)
Grilled Lemon-Asparagus Pizza
(With roasted peppers, roasted garlic and goat cheese)
1 medium bunch asparagus spears
1 medium sweet red pepper
1 medium head garlic
½ fresh lemon
½ cup goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup grated cheese of choice (I use a mix of mozzarella, asiago,
romano, parmesan and provolone)
½ cup Alfredo sauce (homemade or purchased)
Italian seasoning, to taste (or any dried or fresh herbs)
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
¾ cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 ½ cups unbleached bread flour
1 tsp. salt
Early in the day or 2-3 hours before serving, prepare the veggies for
topping the pizza. Cut the tough ends from the asparagus and place in a
bowl or rectangular pan that will accommodate the length of the spears.
Drizzle them with a generous amount of olive oil, sprinkle with a good
pinch of salt and several grinds of fresh, black pepper. Toss well.
Prepare the grill or broiler, preheating the grill on high for 10 minutes.
Turn the grill to low heat and oil the grates with a bit of canola oil.
Place the stalks on the grates, turning and moving them about until they
are slightly charred, but still retain a bright color and a bit of crunch,
5-10 minutes. Set aside. When cool, cut into 1-2" pieces.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top ¼ off the top of the head of
garlic and set it on a piece of tinfoil large enough to enclose the entire
head. Sprinkle the cut top with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Wrap loosely with the foil and roast in oven for 30-40 minutes, until the
garlic is soft. Set aside, with foil opened up. When cool enough to
handle, squeeze the softened cloves from their skins onto a small plate.
Next, using grill, gas burner or broiler, roast the red pepper. Whatever
method, char the whole pepper (do not cut) until the entire surface is
well blackened and the pepper is soft. Place whole pepper in a plastic
bag, seal shut and set aside for 20-30 minutes. Remove pepper from bag and
rub off as much charred skin as possible, leaving some for flavor. Cut
open, remove seeds and slice or dice into pizza topping size.
For the crust*: Combine the yeast and warm water in a bowl until it is
foamy, about five minutes. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and
salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until dough
forms, adding more water if needed. Gather the dough in your hands and
place it on a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until smooth and
not sticky, about 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed. Warm a large
bowl with hot water and dry well. Form the dough into a ball and place
into the bowl. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the dough and turn over
several times until well coated. Cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel,
and set in a warm place to rise, until double in bulk, about 45-50 minutes
When dough has risen, punch down and knead a couple of times and cut in
half. If only making one 10" pizza, wrap the other half in freezer wrap
and freeze for later use. Using a rolling pin or your hands, form the
dough into a 10" circle. Pinch up a small rim to contain the toppings.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. If using a pizza stone, heat it as well
according to manufacturer instructions. If using a baking sheet, sprinkle
with a little corn meal before placing the formed dough on it. I use a
wooden pizza peel and put the corn meal and dough directly on it to slide
the pizza onto my heated stone.
Spread the Alfredo sauce on the dough, followed by half the grated
cheese and half the goat cheese. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the
asparagus. Arrange the asparagus, roasted pepper and roasted garlic over
the cheese, followed by the remainder of both cheeses. Season with a pinch
of salt and a few grinds of pepper and bake for 10-12 minutes or until
crust is golden and toppings are bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle
with the herbs. Enjoy!
Asparagus lends itself to all kinds of helpers. Parsley planted beside
the asparagus will give each of them added vigor. Two other friends of
asparagus are tomatoes and basil, which help each other greatly as well
and taste great together and the tomato’s solanine will shoo away
asparagus beetles. If there are lots of the beetles present they will
attract their own predators (they apparently harbor a death wish!), so not
much else would be needed (read: NO SPRAYS!)
I realize I said "a couple of tasty uses" earlier in this article,
however, seeing as how this has become more a short story than an article,
I’ll try and have recipes on a fairly regular basis for your future
enjoyment. Until then, I have to go out and ask the frogs to tone down the
rowdy noise. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I saw a frog Ferris
wheel going up next to the tomato cages! Happy and peaceful planting!
* Crust recipe is from a pamphlet that came with my Williams-Sonoma
copyright 2003 Janelle N. Seavey