Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Center Plot

It’s windy today, and sunny but with big huge clouds looming in the sky. I wish it were just plain sunny and warm because tonight is the farmers market in town and the new Ben and Jerrys on the square is giving away free ice cream tonight! Now of course I’ll take free ice cream in any weather, but wouldn’t it be so much nicer if it was warm? Anyway, I’m taking you on a tour of the middle of our veggie garden today, please don’t mind the weeds. It was recently covered in favas and vetch, but now that those have been pulled and tilled, its full of little seedlings. Oh and one more artichoke plant:
artichoke
Behind the artichoke and the new raised bed (that’s waiting for cucumber seeds to sprout), we have the melon row. Here’s one of the few melons that survived the frosty mornings, a crenshaw.
crenshaw
Behind the melons is tomato alley:
tomato alley
In the tomato bed is a sea full of volunteer amaranth, wonder berry and purple haze carrots (those we actually planted).
purple haze carrots
As you’ll notice in all of our pictures we have those purple amaranth and little wonder berries. Both of those things we started a few years ago, just with one plant and now they come up *everywhere*! The wonder berries were advertised as being just like huckleberries, but I’m here to report that they are not at all like huckleberries and I wish those stinkin’ little sprouts would just go away already. The amaranth, however are a beautiful and welcome surprise to find around the yard. Both the leaves and seeds are edible. You can eat the leaves young in salads, older steamed like spinach and the seed is a grain that you can eat like rice or quinoa.

Behind the tomatoes is our new three part bed that Scott just made. This bed receives quite a bit of shade in the summer because it’s right by three huge cedar trees and our weeping santa rosa plum tree. So in go the cooler season crops like another lettuce bed (lettuce is so easy to grow, its a sin to have to pay for it at the store):
lettuce
Spinach:
spinach
and French breakfast radishes:
radishes

Throughout this middle section is a scattering of borage (again another one we started with just one plant and now have little volunteers everywhere):
borage

Well, the little ones are up, so I must go. Next up, the right side of the garden.

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Filed under growing challenge, sprouting, state of the garden, tomato

Chef Celebrity Sighting & The Left Side

Yesterday we made a trip down to Marin to go to the Farmer’s Market, which we try to do at least once a month. (oh and Katrina, even with your notice, we of course arrived without our own bags at Bring Your Own Bag day!) As we were strolling through the middle aisle I realized that Tyler Florence, his wife and young son were walking right towards us! I had heard that he had moved somewhere around here. Anyway, we were trying to play it off very cool, as though, ‘oh yeah, that’s just Tyler Florence shopping at our market, no biggie’. But of course as soon he passed we turned right around like gaping fans and looked as he walked by. Poor guy, just trying to shop with his family and he’s got people like us staring at him. Over the years we’ve watched almost all of his shows but Tyler’s Ultimate is my favorite. My mouth is always watering at the end of the show at whatever he’s just created and I always think, I have to download that recipe. He’s a great food stylist and his lighting guru is a master. And it was nice to see him just walking around with his family taking in a lovely Sunday at the market. His son looked just a bit younger than our youngest and I smiled as I passed him later struggling to keep his son from wiggling out of his stroller….a situation I deal with daily. It made him seem like a real and genuine person. From the look of his website it looks like he’s going to open a place in Mill Valley.

So, onto the garden. I’ve been so overwhelmed with all that has gone on in it. April is always full of crazy growth, and new plantings so it’s hard to keep up. So this week, I’ll be starting from the left and moving, as the week goes, over to the right of the yard. Scott constructed some quickie, pell-mell sort of raised beds to house our cold weather spring crop and they look very happy there.

collards, peas and cilantro
We are trying collard greens for the first time, planted with some very slow growing peas, cilantro and parsley.

Broccoli
Next to that is a bed of broccoli, cauliflower and raddiccio hidden in the middle, contained by our snail guards. I think a few carrot seeds were sprinkled in there last week, but none have come up yet.

bok choy
And next to that bed, is this bed of bok choy. It’s our first year growing that too and we are enjoying having it young. You know how fiberous it can be when it’s fully mature—chew, chew chew.

Radishes
Behind all of those we have a bed of radishes, remember when they were so tiny? Radishes grow quick. In fact at the begining of October of 2006 one of our neighbors who runs the Slow Food Movement in town was running for city council. He stopped by our house campaigning and gave us a package of radish seeds and told me, “plant these today and by the time you are ready to eat them, you’ll remember me and hopefully vote for me on November 7th.” Sorry to report that he didn’t win the election, but I certainly voted for him.

Oak leaf lettuce
Next to the radishes is our lettuce and raddiccio patch. We’re growing a bunch of different lettuces there and since the chickens have been relegaded to the cottage yard (note to self: chickens love lettuce), they are all growing beautifully.

artichokes
And to cap off the left side of the garden, our artichokes. We aren’t getting that many this year. In fact it seems like artichoke prices are through the roof this spring. One sign at the farmer’s market this year read ‘$4/artichoke’! Has anyone read anything about the artichoke crop this year?

So that is the state of affairs for the left side of the yard, next up, the center plot.

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Filed under growing challenge, our weekends, state of the garden

green garlic and spinach soup

Green Garlic
Anyone here read Orangette? She posted a green garlic and spinach soup recipe on Monday that I just had to try since we have a bunch of green garlic in our garden now. Green garlic just being young garlic. So I pulled a handful of it, sliced it
Green garlic sliced
made some vegetable stock
Vegetable Stock
and went ahead with the rest of the recipe until I got this:
Green Garlic and Spinach soup
I have to say, I loved this soup. It was rich even before I added the cream. And it tasted good and green, but not oh-this-must-be-good-for-me-yuck-green. It was well….just go and read what Molly has to say about it, she describes it much better. But you must try it!

If you are looking for another great recipe, try the carmalized carrot risotto recipe that Julie just made. I have to say that cooked carrots and cooked peas are the only two foods I really don’t like, but even I was tempted to try that delicious looking risotto.

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Filed under in the kitchen, just picked

the weekend in pictures

It was dreadfully windy this weekend which we both decided makes us not want to be outside. So mornings were spent outside while it was only slightly breezy and the afternoons were spent inside cooking.
a new bed
Scott made another new raised bed. It’s a funky little spot in the yard where nothing ever grew very well. This year it will be home to cucumbers.
wild arugula

We decided that although the thought of ‘wild arugula’ sounded great, in reality, it’s totally dumb. Its completely miniature with each leaf being about an inch and a quarter in length. Good for the garden gnomes I suppose.
shelling favas

We picked another round of favas and used this in both our Saturday and Sunday nights dinners with our homemade pasta: (fyi ~ an excellent way to keep a toddler occupied for half an hour is to have them help shell beans, he was completely captivated)
making pasta with the chitarra

Our chicken’s eggs made this pasta so yellow:
making pasta with the chitarra

Saturday we had the noodles and favas as a soup and Sunday they were transformed into pasta with a side of fava bean puree. Both delicious.

I also spruced up the mantle with the latest blooms:
roses and snowball hydrangeas

We’ve made a real effort to use up as much of the food we canned and froze last summer to make room for this summers harvest. Many years we just keep adding to the stash instead of completely depleting it before we add more. So we end up with jam from 2001 and frozen squash from who knows when (we aren’t so good at labeling). Yesterday Scott opened up a jar of hot cherry peppers that he canned last year. We didn’t really know what to do with them fresh because they were really hot (even for us!) so he just canned them for a rainy day. Now after mellowing out for 9 months, they are fantastic. Much like pepperoncini, but with a rounder, fuller less hot taste. We enjoyed them today with our locally made tomales. (Tomales being my latest passion).
Lunch Today

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Filed under in the kitchen, just picked, our weekends

onions ~ it makes perfect sense

onions

I heard a piece of advise or rather knowledge the other week that I never thought of before but makes complete sense. Did you know that the number of leaves an onion has is the same number of layers the onion will have? Of course that makes perfect sense! So I know this onion will have 10 layers (always an even number as their leaves grow in pairs) when I cut into it. Same goes for garlic, the number of leaves equals the number of cloves. Duh!

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my favorite flower

my favorite flower...

This is my absolute favorite flower thats in my garden. Each year I look forward to seeing this little thing blossom. Of course I’ve completely forgotten the name of it, but next time I go to the nursery I’ll write it down. It grows tall, slender stems with these small little red flowers on top. They are so elegant and full of color, like jewelry in my flower garden.

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Filed under what's blooming

the iris massacre – keeping those snails away

copper as snail barrier
Two years ago at this time of year, we had a massacre in our garden. It was ugly. It all started when all of our lettuce seeds started sprouting in their planting bed, which just happens to be right behind a wall of irises. The sight of this fresh growth was a much welcome sight after such a long, rainy winter. Remember that winter? Well, one morning during Scott’s early morning coffee-in-hand walk through the garden, he found that each and every sprout had been completely eated by snails. In an understandable snail rage, out came the clippers and all the surrounding irises that had been housing those snails were chopped to the ground. All those tall, graphic leaves and soon to be flowers were gone. Not that I’m a huge fan of that patch of irises, I mean, really, what do you call this color? Burnt Flesh?
ugly irises

But we had to find a better solution than yearly massacres. We had already tried Sluggo, beer in tuna cans, you know the drill. So we went the way of the copper pipe. It’s an awesome solution really. When the slug or snail touches the copper, a slight electrical discharge zaps the poor victim and they quickly retreat. No death, no poison, no animal-unfriendly pellets, just a zap and they are gone. If you were really fancy, you could construct a copper pipe rectangle to go around your entire bed. And it will last year after year. And it will save all the poor ugly colored irises. (note to self: i must replace with irises i actually like this fall! anyone want these fugly little guys?)

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Filed under what we've learned