Sunday, November 16, 2008
Introducing the world's first bean hammock. They seem to be happy up there and are moving along quite nicely. And best of all...I have lettuce sprouts where the beans used to be.
Below you can find my Pie Filling and a link to Dene's crust.
Basic Filling (feel free to add ginger, cloves, etc.)
10 apples or pears (or half and half)
1/2 cup sugar
3 lemons (juice and zest to preserve fruits while peeling)
3 tbsp. flour
We sliced them up and salted them overnight and I canned them today. You can find the recipe in the New York Times Cookbook. Haven't tasted them yet, but according to Mama Parsons there isn't much better than a pickled green tomato on dark bread with butter. Kind of helps get over the fact that tomato season is over. However, I've already got a shortlist of eight tomato varieties for next year...kind of a leap from the three this year...
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
here is what works for me:
1) my neighbor hands me a few little potatoes that have grown eyes (she grew them in her garden and they grew eyes on the shelf in her pantry)
2) i bury them outside in a container (w/ drainage holes in the bottom) under some soil & compost (about 4 inches) and watch the green leafy plants emerge (burying whole potatoes versus pre-cut sets is a common practice in England and...it is simple and i like it)
3) after a few weeks i hill up more soil (i hear you can do this w/ straw versus soil, and that sounds nifty, but i have not tried it yet) around the green leafy plants, leaving a few inches of each plant above the soil
4) the visible parts of the plants eventually turn yellowish brown and slump over
5) i dig* into the soil beneath and around the slumped over plants and find potatoes** of various sizes, including the little potato shown above
what fun! i highly recommend planting potatoes.
* don't wait too long to dig or your tubers may decay
**don't eat any tubers that have been exposed to the sun and turned green, they contain a moderately poisonous substance called solanine
Monday, October 20, 2008
1. light glow: radiated light that remains visible after a source of light or energy has been removed, e.g. the glow sometimes seen in the sky after sunset
2. good feeling: a feeling of pleasure or a favorable impression that remains after a positive experience
basking in the afterglow of victory
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Next weekend we're going to try to chill out when our friends Joen and Paul visit...but the next weekend we'll be back it.
I think the highlight of the weekend was the rain on Friday. We haven't had rain since we moved here in August. Not only did it feel great...the garden looked totally different in the rain. I also went for an evening hike in the rain. It was so nice to see some different weather.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
yesterday i picked a few striking wild thistles that were growing out behind the fence of our backyard and tried to tame them with a few other wild flowers by arranging them all in a milk bottle turned floral vessel and placing it in my kitchen window. at the time i was not aware that the thistle had so many enemies. sigh...i seem to be a magnet for invasive weeds. the image above depicts what occurs when a thistle (or 2) goes to seed while confined indoors versus outdoors where the wind would scatter its seeds. i've never seen anything like it. it was early evening when i walked into the kitchen and saw that a couple of the more mature thistle heads had exploded, trying to send their seeds off for future generations. each tiny seed was surrounded by a beautiful soft fuzzy ball, light as air, worlds away from the thorny thistles i'd cut earlier that afternoon. if outdoors, the seeds would have floated away as passengers in mini hot air balloons.
Friday, August 29, 2008
excerpt from an email from my mom:
My favorite way to eat them now is sliced into a pretty Chinese bowl with a bit of thinly sliced scallion, a tablespoon or more of rice wine vinegar (the seasoned one because it is sweet and salty), a drop or two of toasted sesame oil, a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds, and a few grinds of black pepper. So delicious... You can't stop eating it.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
when i recall the backyard vegetable garden of my childhood i think of our little cucumbers and the pickles my mom made with them. i'll definitely follow in mom's footsteps and be experimenting with some cucumber pickles of my own, but i must wait until i have more than one small cucumber. my time will come, soon i'm sure.
the cucumber is one of my favorite vegetables. it's VERY versatile, eaten in many cultures, and it tastes great without any prep - just slice and eat...done. i have always thought of the cucumber as a vegetable, but since it has an enclosed seed and develops from a flower, it is technically a fruit. as i understand, the term "vegetable" is not scientific and the usage of the word is subjective, so, for now, i'll continue to think of these green little guys as veggies.
i'll leave you with a lovely poem that i found today. it was written by a girl named Alysha. it seems there was a poetry competition and the children were asked to write a poem about a vegetable. Alysha, who must also think of the cucumber as a veggie, responded with this poem. you can read more vegetable poems writtem by children here:
by Alysha Bhatti (aged 8)
Cucumber with noodles
Pizza or rice.
Even on its own
Cucumber tastes nice.
Cucumber in chutney
With yogurt and spice
Diced or grated
Or in a slice.
Cucumber with prawn
Cucumber with fish
Cucumber is the king
Of every salad dish.
Cucumber for hunger,
Cucumber for thirst
In this competition
Cucumber comes first.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I can say, without a doubt, that lettuces have been the biggest surprise for me in the garden. Lettuces never made the mental list of some-day crops that we had been maintaining over the last few years. When Steve Quirt, our local extension practitioner, brought a flat of baby lettuce to his seed-saving lecture in June, I was lukewarm on Denise's idea to take them home.
Granted, Steve's lecture on saving seed was eye-opening. I had no idea how such a thing worked with lettuce, and I had no idea how many varieties of lettuce there were. Steve has been growing lettuce in our area for almost thirty years and he pretty much seems to be growing his own cultivars now. His lecture piqued my interest in lettuce a little more...but not even really to a simmer.
Over the last two months we had our first crop of mesclun fail (planted too late) and our second crop of butter lettuces (planted too late, perhaps not enough sun) has puttered along. We obtained the seeds for both of these crops from mail-order sources. I haven't given up on our second crop, but I can't say they have been a success either.
Meanwhile, the lettuces we got from Steve were slowly moving along, growing bit by bit. We attributed this to planting them in the wrong season and the hot weather. However, the weather cooled off a couple weeks ago and Steve's lettuces got to eating size. We know that lettuces tend to bolt if exposed to prolonged hot weather so we thought we should just try some in case we ended up losing the crop.
It was excellent. (I'm kicking myself for not photographing the pea, mint, lemon, pecorino salad we made Friday night with it.) But the most interesting surprise was how fast it grew back in. I noticed this while hand-watering* this weekend and immediately called Denise over to see it. I am still blown away every time I walk by it.
Below there are two photographs that show the lettuce we harvested this Friday in the foreground and lettuces we harvested a week ago Friday in the background. We have been harvesting lettuces by snipping the leaves about an inch and a half from the base. Denise learned that the lettuces actually grow from the bottom (seems obvious enough I suppose) and if you look at the photos carefully you can see that the tips of the re-grown lettuces are flat where they were snipped.
So the logical moral to the story is that seeds / crops that have grown well in this climate, in fact in this case, were developed in this climate, will do best. We're looking forward to harvesting Steve's crop as long as possible into the fall, letting it go to seed, and planting a whole lot more of it next year.
* Hand-watering. We've been getting some grief from some of our friends for not putting in drip irrigation. usually this comes after we say something like "I'd love to attend your baby shower/birthday party/wedding but I have to water my tomatoes." OK, that's an exaggeration, but it is not an overstatement to say that growing food without irrigation can put a bit of a cramp on your social life. Which is fine with us. That, and we're cheap. Especially on rented land. Add in that we didn't exactly know what we were doing when we laid out the beds, and irrigation is kind of ruled out for us.
But I have been reading more and more that indicates that hand-watering is the way to go for several reasons, but the most interesting one to me is that it forces you to slow down and spend time with your plants on a regular basis. You notice little things (like lettuce re-growth) and you learn about how your plants grow in a way you never would if you let a nanny raise your kids. Oops, I mixed metaphors there. But I stand by my opinion.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Over the last few weeks we've been swimming in blackberries, plums, beets, shelling peas, beans, and summer squash. We've also been falling in love with growing (and re-growing) lettuces. The lettuce story is a whole other blog post.
Denise made a count the other day and I think she figured out we are growing something like FIFTY-FOUR different varieties of vegetables. Wow. I really don't know how that happened.
...that's a lie. I know exactly how it happened, cause this we added five new varieties, all five of which were unplanned. Our neighbor, Ruth, continues to bring us things she thinks
we'd like to plant. In the case of leeks, two types of potatoes, and fennel - she's right.
In the case of cilantro...not so much. For me. But I have to say that it is always interesting to see how things grow.
I think if I took the time to think about it, I could probably list another five that came from Ruth, and another five or so came from community seed / plant exchanges in town. That's how we ended up with Oca. (The middle plant in the picture above). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oca. That's how we ended up with the lettuces that will be the star of the next blog post.
It's almost like we're the pet rescue shelter for vegetable plants and seeds...we've just been suckers for anything new, because it is really interesting to watch them grow. (Two varieties of newly planted potatoes above.)
But don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, and I also can't quite lay the blame outside the household. The final pictures, below, are of the newest major addition to the garden, a 4’ x 12’ bed, our first non-raised bed, that I dug out, gopher-proofed, and cultivated about a month ago. Yes, a month ago. The bed is composed of two varieties of beans, four squashes, and one watermelon. (We have planted two of the "three sisters," and we cut down some New Zealand Flax from Ruth's garden to stand in for corn as the vertical supports for the beans.) This bed is also our first experiment with using straw as a mulch...and so far so good. And we like the way it looks as well.
So… back to the title. We have seen the end of some of our earliest crops (radishes, carrots, and beets) and we can see the end of several more coming. So over the next few weeks we'll continue to do more planting, scheming, digging, and planting. And if the past is any indicator of the future...we'll be proud foster parents of some new transplants as well. Here's to seventy-five varieties.
Link to more about the three sisters - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture)
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Why is it called “canning” if we are putting food in jars?
according to Intercourse Canning Company:
In 1795 Napoleon offered money to anyone who could find a way to preserve foods for his troops. Nicholas Appert of France found a way to preserve food in jars sterilized and sealed with pitch and had a vacuum-packing plant by 1804. This process was a military "secret" but by 1810 Peter Durand of England had a patent for tin-plated iron to use in "canning." Canned rations were on the field at the Battle of Waterloo.
In 1812 a small plant in New York produced hermetically sealed oysters, meats, fruits, and vegetables in cans. Durand introduced his can to America in 1818. Henry Evans patented a machine that made the tin cans increasing production from 5-6 cans to 50-60 cans per hour.
In 1858 American John Mason invented the now famous glass jar for home canning. By the 1860s the process time had dropped from six hours to 30 minutes, making canned foods commonplace. In the heating process the sterilization destroys bacteria and enzymes that can cause spoiling, and the seal prevents new air or other organisms from entering.
what have we canned in the test kitchen?
- mixed garden plum w/garam masala preserves* (we've tried this one on bread and butter, toast, w/ cheese and toasted baguette slices, and on lamb chops)
- santa rosa plum w/rosemary preserves (excellent on french toast!)
- yellow garden plum w/ginger & clove preserves (tastes like peaches)
- garden plum chutney (waiting 3 weeks to allow it to mellow)
- garden plum w/vanilla bean preserves (tastes like raspberries)
- pickled garden plums (cooling off as i type...)
*noted in Can't take credit for them...
i need a nap.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
We're lucky enough to have inherited three varieties of plums. Denise made a plum preserve last weekend with our new wonder spice, garam masala. Since we haven't stocked the Point Reyes pantry yet we are reaching for garam masala whenever we need something with cloves/cinnamon/cumin etc. It is very cool to cook with. Anyhow, it turned out like a cross between a jam and a chutney. We've using it on toast to date but Denise is using it to glaze lamb chops tonight.
I've got a plum tart in the oven as we speak. While Denise was inclusive in her preserve, using plums from all across the size and color specturm, my tart is a strickly fascist Santa Rosa affair. (See second pic.) I was about ten minutes into researching a crust from scratch when I decided it would take too much time. Denise suggested a graham cracker crust. So a little melted butter and some crumbled graham crackers and I was off. I decided that the plums were so sweet that I'd only add lemon juice and zest. I don't get all this sugar in the recipies.
The larger story is that I am trying to cook without recipies and internet more and more. One of my goals in moving up here was to get to know the hiking trails well enough that I didn't have to take a map along to find my way. I wanted to know which ones were good in shade and in sun, which were a hard workout, which had good spots by streams by heart, so I could just pick up and go.
I'm getting more and more like that with my cooking. I want to get good enough that I can improvise all the time...only turning to books and internet for new experiments, or complicated things like bread. (Although, I really want to get some basic breads down as well.)
So back to the title...I can't take credit for growing the plums, but you can bet your ass I'm going to claim credit for my tart. Assuming it turns out well...
Friday, July 25, 2008
I knew before I moved to Point Reyes that if I wanted to live in such a place I’d have to learn to coexist with these eight legged creatures. This photograph was taken on a hike about a month before we started looking for a place in West Marin to call our own. It was during an early morning stroll and we were amazed by the amount of webs. They were everywhere we turned, covered with dew, and glistening in the sunshine. How could something I’d come to find so awful and creepy create such beautiful and functional sculptural work?
Since then we have moved into the house and I have slowly gotten used to these little silk producers. There are so many and such a wide variety that I really didn’t have a choice. They weren’t leaving and I wasn’t leaving. If I attempted to get rid of them, in a county like West Marin, I’d be stoned to death. Best of all, they do control evil-doers in the garden such as aphids and cucumber beetles.
When I found this little tidbit I realized I had more in common with the female spider than I knew. You know how it is, sometimes when I've skipped a meal and waited just a bit too long, well...it's hard to even see straight. As poor Chris knows all to well, life isn’t fun for anyone when I’m hungry…
So the fear subsides and we share the property, but my curiosity stops there. There is no real future for us and we’ll never be pest pals. I adore the intelligence and artistic abilities of many of these spiders inhabiting the premises, but I can’t imagine I’ll ever be happy about sharing my shower with one, even if she happens to be a cousin of my good friend the scorpion. We’ll just tolerate each other as indifferent neighbors sometimes do.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The thing that is odd about this meal is that it is the first one this weekend that involves much meat. It is also the first one that didn't center around our garden. The summer squash soup with coconut milk, pasta primavera, and root veegie roast were all at least half based on the garden. (Not to mention the ridiculous blackberry pie Dene made on Saturday.)
We're kind of strangely, silently evolving to a mostly vegetarian diet. Not for political, health, or any other reasons. Just cause we try and eat what we are growing and supplement the rest at the farmer's market. By the time we have used up our food for the weekend...there's not much room for meat.
The other odd thing that has happened is that we're eating four or five times a day. Denise came in with some fresh beans from the garden and we just made them into a small course on the spot. I boiled some beets as the beginning of a pickling experiment and we ate them all as I was peeling off the skins. This keeps happening again and again.
This of course, will all end as soon as we get the goats, pigs and chickens.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
my neighbor told me to get rid of these sweet little flowers and their pretty winding vines tout de suite! i did not... i couldn't. i like them. i just located the data below and still have no urge to remove them. they are popping up all over, around the tomatoes, near the peas, in front of the old chicken coop.
our comfrey is supposed to cause big trouble too. i obeyed when another neighbor said "chop that comfrey down immediately!", but then it came back and i've decided to let it grow large and out of control. why not? we've also planted two types of mint and mint is supposed to be very dangerous as well. bad bad mint. and then there are our beloved blackberries, invasive, wicked, non-native! all of the blackberry plants were cleared from the site of the new point reyes food forest so more respectable food could be planted. california blackberry plants do exist, but from what i understand, they are small thorned and all of the blackberries i've seen in our neighborhood are covered with large feisty thorns.
why am i so protective of these wild and crazies? i am not sure, but these noxious weeds, invasives, the james deans of the plant world, they are my friends.
run free, all of you!
Field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, is a native of Eurasia and was first documented in California in 1884 when it was collected in San Diego. By the first quarter of the twentieth century, field bindweed was proclaimed the worst weed in California and many of the western states. It has been given many names including perennial morningglory, creeping jenny, bellbine, sheep-bine, and corn-bind.
Field bindweed is one of the most persistent and difficult-to-control weeds in ornamentals, orchard and vine crops, and field crops. It has a vigorous root and rhizome system that makes it almost impossible to control with cultivation. Its seed has a long dormancy and may last in soil for up to 60 years. It has a climbing habit that allows the plant to grow through mulches. Field bindweed is also very drought tolerant and once established is almost impossible to control with herbicides.
If field bindweed is present, agricultural land is devalued and the weed precludes planting of certain crops such as onions, melons, and tomatoes.~we currently have onions, melons, and tomatoes growing...so there!
Monday, July 7, 2008
have you ever seen baby beans? these are the first beans (blue lake bush beans) i've ever grown, so i have just seen my first (above). VERY cute. i have my hand in the photo for scale. these little guys are supposed to grow into 6 1/2" round pods. somehow i thought they'd be more similar to my peas (tall telephone pole peas), but not at all. i just went outside and took a look at my peas and even in the infant stage (i uncovered a small pea from within a dying blossom) the peas emerge shorter and much wider than the slender mini beans that even this tiny, are bare, they've already shed their dying blossom overcoats.
lesson learned: when the flower dries up, both pea and bean pods grow in the same place, but emerge looking quite different. i probably learned such things when i was in elementary school, but when it isn't part of daily life, so much of it floats away...
something else i've noticed while watching my peas and beans grow: the data on the seed packets i've purchased only serve as suggestions for what might occur. i planted my pole peas, beans, and snap peas on the same day. my pole peas packet suggests 70 days to harvest and my bush beans packet claims 55 days to harvest. i've been eating my pole peas off the vine for over a week now and my beans are nowhere near snack stage. my snap peas packet reads that they will grow with self supporting vines and will be ready for harvest in 58 days. last thursday they showed that they were not in the mood to be self-supporting when they fell right over. they are now happily growing around a bamboo teepee and it was just today that i saw my first snap pea blossom - no actual peas in sight. i guess the performance of our plants varies for so many reasons: soil, fertilizer, sun, shade, water, pests of all sorts, surrounding plants, love, etc. that it must be near impossible to pinpoint seed packet specifics such as what time of year to plant, days to germination, days to harvest, etc. i'm having fun watching and learning. no need for hard data. mother nature has her own ideas and i'm certainly not going to question them.
speaking of mothers, when i was a tot my mom used to call me beansy, her little beansy. truth be told, she still addresses me as her little beansy in an email every now and again, usually when i'm not feeling well or i've been let down in one way or another. maybe that's why i'm so fond of these sweet fragile little beans...
Saturday, July 5, 2008
mix in a bbq and a bottle of (not even close to local) italian prosecco and you have what we believe will be the basic meal plan for the rest of our summer saturdays. right, i almost forgot the strauss family farm ice cream from tomales. ;)