Wednesday, April 29, 2009

urban gardening part IV - air & water


Have you ever seen one of these? This is a Tillandsia, often referred to as an air plant, or Tilly. I added one to my bay window garden a while back and although it requires a bit more maintenance than an herb, succulent, or pot of carrots, caring for it has been an interesting experience and it seems to be enjoying the environment here.

The photograph above shows the plant being watered. There's no use for a watering can when a Tilly needs a drink, and by the way, this drinking is something they need to do very often, which makes the name "air" plant seem odd. Anyway...watering this plant means fully submerging it inside a bowl of water for at least an hour. I'd never heard of such a thing. There are rumors that you can just mist them every so often with a spray bottle, but that doesn't seem like a good idea to me. Even after a one hour+ soak, the Tilly is pretty dried out before the week is up. The submersion method works for both of us, so why mess with it. I skip the misting.

When we purchased our Tilly from Flora Grubb Gardens it had a big bloom emerging from the center of the plant and watering was a bit complicated because the bloom was not supposed to be submerged with the rest of the plant. Now the bloom is gone and I just place the entire plant in a full bowl of water for about an hour, once per week, shake off any excess water, let it dry completely, and then place it back on its pedestal in the window.

Tillys don't need any soil because water and nutrients are absorbed through their leaves. I suppose this is the explanation for this "air" plant business, but I believe something like "octopus" plant would be much more appropriate.

I don't think this plant really cares what it is called. It's the carefree type. With no soil to hold it down, the Tilly just rests quietly upon its pedestal and sunbathes all day. No hat or sunscreen required. And then there's that weekly dip in the pool... What a life.

Monday, April 27, 2009

a night to remember

my first homegrown strawberry in Point Reyes

It was a hot sunny day in San Francisco and this is not a place where hot sunny days come along often. I was hoping it would be one of those hot sunny days followed by a comfortably warm evening, the type I grew up with in Chicago. An evening without a light jacket is something almost unheard of around here. I really wanted to make the most of this surprise heat wave and prepare a dinner that fit the mood, something simple, beautiful, and light.

I'd been reading a lovely new book written by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of the blog Orangette, and thinking of making her bouchons au thon. I'm not sure if I was truly interested in her recipe or just charmed by her story, but decided that it didn't really matter. I forged ahead.

I rarely follow recipes, but Molly particularly noted that she always did, so I thought I'd try and practice restraint. I was almost 100% successful with the only exception being a substitute of sour cream for the crème fraîche I'd forgotten to purchase during my trip to the market.

The recipe turned out wonderfully and my only complaint is that the bottoms of the bouchons stuck to the well greased cups of my muffin tin. I'm not sure if it was my tin, if I did not use enough oil on the cups, if using butter would have made things less sticky, or if it is simply the nature of the beast. It was so minor I probably shouldn't even be referring to it as a complaint.

When Molly refers to the bouchons as odd and homely, my guess is that she does so lovingly. I think the little puffs are darling. I served the bouchons, two small puffs per person, atop a bed of ancho cress and sliced strawberries.

Ancho cress is a cress I had not yet met, before our Tuesday visit to the farmers market. If you too are unfamiliar with this cress you can see a photo of an ancho cress and scarlet runner bean salad on the Rancho Gordo site. This salad made me miss our beautiful scarlet runner bean and christmas lima bean tepees. They were really fantastic!

bean tepees we built from a type of flax growing on our neighbor's property (thanks Ruth!)

The ancho cress called out to me that day at the market. So did the pencil thin asparagus, Yerena Farms strawberries, and some small pale yellow carrots. It really was a perfect day.

The first bite into a leaf of ancho cr
ess tricks you into thinking it is a tame green, but it is quickly followed by a peppery bite. I tamed the bite by tossing it with a light dressing of olive oil, fresh orange juice, a very small squeeze from the honey bear, and a little s&p. I decorated the top of the cress with sliced strawberries, lemon zest, and some thin shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Petite plates of crisp green decorated with red, creamy white, and tiny flecks of yellow--all topped with golden puffs. A small round table for two in front of a large window on a warm night, the city humming below, and sharing it all with someone you love. A night to remember... Sigh. Smile.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

urban gardening part I - succulents UPDATE

Fort Mason succulent
gift from Mary Anne

Well well well...look what I found upon arriving home this evening. It appears this one flowers!

I'm not sure if the flowering is a good or bad thing. I know it's exactly what you don't want your arugula, chard, lettuce, and the like to do, but I'm not so sure about succulents.

It is also shooting up a bit which might mean that it needs more sun.
Unfortunately, I am already giving it all of the sun this apartment is set up to allow. Hopefully it will adjust.

For now, I'll just think optimistically and enjoy the view.

urban gardening part III - carrots UPDATE

goodbye cotyledons(s)... hello true leaves!

The carrots are progressing.

Eight sets of true leaves have appeared. I had one original seed (1/9) that did not germinate, so I planted a new seed to fill in the empty space. The newbie has now sprouted!

It is 9:30am and the sun is shining brightly.

So far so good.