We are into our third summer of hay bale gardening. It is also our biggest vegetable garden to date and it is keeping us very very busy. Once we discovered how much easier cultivating veggies in hay bales is compared to conventional gardening (in soil), we just kept planting more and more every summer, not really thinking too much about the work involved in processing all this food that will all ripen at about the same time. We are at maximum production now with 30 bales, plus 12 bales worth of organic growing compound created from last years bales and used in raised beds, and a potato patch using another 6 bales worth of composted material from old bales. At some point, every single horizontal surface started to fill with ripening tomatoes. After making 20 jars of that awesome pickle recipe using three different kinds of veggies, we realized we may not eat any more than that but food baskets for Christmas started sounding like a really good idea.
We don’t go out to eat this month. When we do cook, we look to see which vegetable we have the most of. I feel guilty when we buy veggies like sweet corn, that we didn’t grow. I have dreams of inventing new squash recipes. This is a three day holiday weekend and so far I have made dried tomatoes, boiled down tomatoes, and am working on preserving a 1/2 bushel of peaches that my Mr. Wonderful has found on sale. We toy with the idea of making pepper jelly. No not really.
The garden dictates all culinary activity.
I first heard about hay/straw bale gardening through some article on the internet. Basically one plants seeds or seedlings directly into semi decomposed hay (or straw) bales. No soil preparation like tilling and hoeing and weeding and nourishing. The beauty of the bales, is that other than letting them sit around to decompose, you have no other job other than keeping them watered, and keeping pests in check. They are self-nourishing “containers” that one can place anywhere – a driveway, a balcony, a rooftop, or as in our case, a very non-draining garden. At the end of the season the bales can be either thrown into the compost pile creating some amazing soil for the following season, or you can use them as mulch.
I’ll go into further detail about this type of gardening later in the season when it is time to suss out where next years’ bales are coming from. In the meantime, its back to cooking, canning, drying, and preserving.
The garden dictates.
If you are overwhelmed with the array of wonderful summer vegetables available right now and want to make something in a large amount that you can munch on for a few days (great at room temperature!), or freeze until another day, this recipe can absorb anything that’s being grown now, especially tomatoes, zucchini, various squash, eggplant, and some of those fresh herbs that are also in abundance right now.
I’ve never been able to make a small amount of this dish.
Feel free to add anything else; beans, peppers, corn. Avoid broccoli or cauliflower as their flavors tend to overwhelm the subtleties of everything else.
In Greek they call this recipe Μπριάμ (Briáhm). I don’t know where the name comes from nor what it means… I’m assuming it means the same as Ratatouille; a mix of everything.
Mixed Roasted Summer Vegetables or Μπριάμ (Briáhm)
6 -8 medium sized pieces of various squash type vegetables (zucchini, acorn squash, etc), cut into large chunks (about walnut size, or slightly bigger)
2 onions, thinly sliced
8 small potatoes or 4 large, cut into walnut sized chunks
1 large green pepper, cut into thin slices
1 large eggplant, cut into smaller sized chunks
5 large tomatoes, sliced into thick slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil & a little extra for drizzling
1 handful fresh mint, chopped
1 handful fresh oregano, chopped
coarse sea salt
fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350F (170C)
Pour the oiled and seasoned veggie chunks into an adequately sized baking dish and cover everything with the tomatoes slices. Drizzle some olive oil over these slices.
Allow to cool a bit. Serve with fresh bread, crumbled feta cheese, or parmesan gratings. A chilled dry rosé or white would be a perfect pairing with this Mediterranean country-style dish.