Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fruit flies buggin' you?

This homemade trap, introduced by my co-worker, really works. I have to confess that I'm a lazy composter. I compost everything. I have good intentions. I just don't go out and dump the bucket into the compost pile often enough. Inevitably, there are fruit flies.

Last week I tried one of those electronic bug zappers that look like tennis rackets and almost had a heart attack. My idea was to be able to press the button and do a slow swipe, electrocuting all fruit flies in one controlled range of motion. Unfortunately, it came too close to a new water bottle and sent a shock of electricity out (really makes me wonder what that seemingly plastic water bottle is made of!). I tried to be more careful and the next time I held the button down and swiped (away from the water bottle), the racket came too close to the metal range blower, and I was almost struck down. I carefully placed the racket down and decided to try less violent methods (such as death by low-tech drowning).

This fruit fly trap is simply apple cider vinegar in a cup with a piece of plastic wrap rubber-banded around the top and holes poked in with the end of a paper clip. What you can't see are the 15 fruit flies trapped and drowned in the vinegar. We did try this at work, but I don't think it was as effective. There are two possible confounding variables. At work, we used the Press and Seal type of plastic wrap, but the trap below uses regular plastic wrap. Also, at work, the level of the vinegar was lower, in the trap below, I've used more vinegar.

If the fruit flies are buggin' you, this trap will cost you little to nothing to try, and it really works for me!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

This burns me up (sunscald)!

What Now?

  • Now I am finding spots on my tomatoes and peppers that I have diagnosed to be sunscald. Sunscald usually begins looking like white/yellow spots that are sunken and leathery in texture. Once affected, it usually prevents the fruit from ripening properly. I know this is sunscald because the spots are on the top side of the fruits, and most of the fruits underneath are not affected. The spots on the peppers and tomato in the photos above did begin white, sunken, and leathery but are now also beginning to mold. The tomato has other problems as well (that burn me up too).

Why Me?

  • Sunscald is caused by the sudden exposure of fruits to direct sunlight in hot, dry weather. It's also caused by extended periods of direct sunlight. It can happen when extreme weather such as hail or strong winds move the protective foliage from the fruits. When septoria or blight cause leaves to drop, fruits can be left exposed to intense sun. In retrospect, I remember several consecutive days when we had some strong winds and storms that pushed the pepper plants to one side. I did stake them, but long after they had started leaning. I didn't want to snap the stem in an effort to straighten the plant, so they've been sort of diagonal since the storm. I believe this is what exposed the peppers to direct sun. My tomatoes have been affected by blight, explaining why the first pickings of tomatoes have been fine, but this past week, the tomatoes have looked horrible.

Now what?

  • Now, when I spot a fruit that has sunscald, I can pick off that fruit in order to encourage the plant to set more fruit. Other suggestions for preventing sunscald: use a shade cloth during the hottest part of the day (realistically, I will not be diligent enough to do this), plant tomatoes upside-down, limit pruning and keep foliage healthy in order to provide shade to protect fruit.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Meme award for me!

The ever-wonderful Bangchik (My Little Vegetable Garden), my friend in Malaysia, passed the Meme Award along to me. To play along, I need to reveal 7 things about myself. Because I'm not feeling very profoundish today, I've decided to talk about my hair. Since I'm 35 years old, I will divide my years by 7 and talk about the changes that my hair has gone through in 5 year segments (yes, I am totally serious. The brain is really working today - just in rather odd ways).

  1. birth to 5 years old. I had a stereotypical little Asian girl hairstyle (I don't know why Chinese parents do this to their kids). Bangs, about shoulder-length hair. The texture was sort of medium (not too thick or fine), and straight. The color of my hair was a dark brown. I had no thoughts about my hair, but did like to put my younger sister's hair in pink plastic rollers, and at one point, I wanted to be a hair stylist.

  2. 5-10 years old. During this period, I started growing my hair (b/c my mom didn't cut it, not because I had any care about it), and being the late 70's early 80's, lots of hair accessories became the norm - we would buy simple barrettes and weave ribbon through them, let the ribbon hang down a few inches and maybe add some color coordinating beads. In the younger years, used yarn and barrettes, later on, the Scrunci was invented. Soon thereafter, the banana clip was invented. Fun stuff.

  3. 10-15 years old. The largest amount of change probably happened during this time. I began living at the pool each summer from about 8-12 years old, and my hair color was still overall a dark brown, but also became a little brassy. I also had some lighter - almost blondish colored highlights (from the sun). Around 10 years of age, my hair texture changed dramatically and became extremely full and wavy. Towards the mid 80's, I dreaded haircuts because the hairdressers would inevitably tell me how much they loved "playing" with my hair and blow dry it waaaay up and out, with big wings on the sides and bangs that curled up. All eyes were on me as I left the joints, and I was not happy. It was Miss America hair and I hated it. Big, huge, fluffy, wavy. The exact opposite of the loose, straight, flat, hairstyles I liked. Truth be told, it was probably the typical Caucasian hair that I desired - light, wispy, soft-looking, etc. There are probably a whole host of ethnic-identity issues here, but as I said, I'm not feeling profoundish today - just wanna talk about my hair. One hairdresser told me I'd be glad to have thick, full hair one day.

  4. 15-20 years old. This was a time of experimentation. When I was 15, I kept only the hair on the very top of my head, but shaved the rest of my head to the scalp (picture this with my combat boots, fishnet stockings, blackberry lipstick, and black liquid eyeliner). Most of the time, I wore the top part of my hair in a braid or ponytail. I also experimented with color and tried: auburn (loved it), magenta (not me), blond streaks (including Sun-In and Frost and Tip), but most of the time, it was dyed blue-black. I liked the style of the shaved head, but also liked that with most of my head shaved, I finally got rid of the dense, heavy head of hair that I cannot stand and have fought for years.
  5. 20-25 years old. During this time, I'm raising my first child and ponytailing most of the time. I like the ponytail b/c I don't like hair in my face, and obviously, it's easy. I feel alert with my hair out of my face. It's not necessarily attractive, but this is also not necessarily my focus.
  6. 25-30 years old. More change, though not so wild. I am a busy working mom, and have starting working on my second Master's degree part time in the evenings. I spend a lot of money on a haircut, and as a result, try not to cut too often. At this point, I grow it long, long, long, then cut it chin length. Then long, long, long, then chin length. Once, I donated to Locks of Love (though they probably threw it out when they got it because my hair is still very big, frizzy, wavy, unruly, scraggly, etc.). One year, I discovered a straightening iron, which gives my hair a very sleek look, but since I have so much of it, it takes about an hour to do - an hour more than I have to invest in my hair. Ironically, it was taking me an hour to get my hair to look like the hair that most Asian people have naturally.

  7. 30-35 years old. I have my second child at this time, and though I'm still busy, have taken slightly more interest in my appearance. I think that developmentally, this is because I am starting to feel the effects of age. I start reflecting on the self-esteem (I'm talking purely about superficial aspects) that I lacked as a teen and wondered why I thought I looked fat in my 20's when I actually looked pretty good; about why I ponytailed it when I could have worn it down and attractively. In the past year, I have also noticed a dramatic amount of hair actually falling out. I think I've probably lost about 30% of the fullness during these 5 years. In addition, I choose to dye my hair regularly to cover the grays. So now, I'm realizing I want to take more pride in my appearance, cause giiiirrrrlll, it's fadin' fast. Around age 30, I also found an amazing hair stylist (who has since moved) who showed me how to actually work with my own hair texture instead of fighting it. So instead of pulling stunts like carefully sleeping on my hair a certain way so it will dry flat, or spending an hour with a straight iron, or shaving my head, I can use a simple product on my wet hair and let it air dry. One hour later, ka-bam! A great head of hair that is loose and wavy and sort of beach-tousled looking. The greatest thing about it is that I finally accept my hair for what it is, and have actually even come to love my hair.

While I think ANYONE who has read this post deserves an award, I am passing the Meme Award on to the following blogs - just some out of many blogs that I really enjoy!

Best in Bloom Today- Cause Lynn is totally awesome! Nuff said.

The Little Things - Julie, all-around cool person striving to do the best she can for her kids and live in an authentic way.

Gardening With Soule - I love Teresa's appreciation for and wonder of the world around her.

Arabella's Garden - I really relate to L'il Ned's sense of fun and her down to earth self.

Joel the Urban Gardener - Who makes any urban gardener or Marylander proud.

Digging RI - For informative and sensitive posts typed from my second favorite state in the US.

Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel- who makes me yearn to see the world.

And because I'm not sure Bay Area Tendrils will post non-travel related things, I'm allowing myself to add an 8th:

A Faerie's Garden - a really amazing balcony gardener and cupcake baker!

Here are the guidelines:

1. Link back to the person who gave you the award
2. Reveal the 7 things about yourself
3. Tag 7 other bloggers at the end of your post and link to them
4. Let each blogger know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Let the tagger know when your post is up.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Just because I can(ned) doesn't mean I will again

After a very brief and very intense obsession with canning, I will need to be talked into trying it ever again. It was a great idea in theory: next year, I would grow double the vegetables, preserve the bounty in a variety of ways to enjoy throughout the year - jams of course, pasta sauce of course, but also special chutneys and sauces that would be the envy of the most expensive shelf at Whole Foods. Though it was immensely time consuming and nerve-wracking, I did accomplish the latter goal. Below, I will chronicle the production of seven perfect jars of bruschetta. I estimate each eight ounce jar to cost $24.

Here's the rundown on canning night:

  • 8:30pm to 8:35pm - figured out how to jerry-rig a rack to put on the bottom of the pan. I ended up using screw rings tied together with yarn.

  • 8:35pm-9:15pm - cut tomatoes (my own heirloom beefsteaks). I really can't tell you why it took so damn long to cut the tomatoes.

  • 9:15pm-9:30pm - gathered the rest of the ingredients (white wine, white vinegar, dried basil, dried oregano, water, my own ajo rojo garlic, sugar...

  • ...and also balsamic vinegar.

  • 9:30pm to 10:10pm - washed and heated glass jars and lids, and also cooked the liquid and herb ingredients.

  • 10:10pm to 10:30 - filled jars. Since I was not using a true canner, and only my large pots and pans, I could only process three jars in each pot! I had 3 burners going to process my seven half-pint jars.
  • 10:30-11am - processed the three batches of bruschetta

  • 10:50pm-11:15 - cooled jars and cleaned up a bit

Total time involved: 2 hours and 45 minutes!!!

Here is the finished product - a gorgeous little jar of bruschetta. The plan is to give as gifts (to very special people!) along with some french bread or crackers, and a little bottle of olive oil.

How I calculate the cost for each $24 jar of bruschetta - my hourly work wage (I would imagine my free time would cost even more though!!!), the cost of jars, new tools (a kit that contains a jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, etc.), vinegars, wine, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. I didn't even calculate the "cost" of my tomatoes - always a precious commodity in the Greenish Thumb garden in August when blight, pests, neglect, take over. Each tomato could easily be a $64 Dollar Tomato, though I only used a market price to calculate my cost.

As I conclude and reflect on the business of canning...

Along with some very beautiful and certainly costly little jars of bruschetta, are many questions. First and foremost, why would I ever want to do this messy and labor intensive project again?

I do recognize that much of what slowed me down was my lack of experience and the fear that was put in me by the book I read on preserving. I stood with a kitchen full of measuring cups, timers, pots, and pans having learned that if every minute detail is not followed exactly, the jar will burst, or I will feed my family botulism spores.

Though I basically read a 2 inch book cover to cover (including most of the recipes) before I began, now as I conclude, I am left with more questions than answers:

  • Does a concave seal mean there's nothing to worry about with regards to the seal? Ever?

  • Is it ok to see very tiny air bubbles near the top of the jar?
  • Is it possible to deviate ever so slightly from the recipe - for instance, by using fresh instead of dried herbs?

  • Can I stack jars in a canner?

  • How can I chop tomatoes more efficiently!?

  • Should I buy a canner?

  • Will I ever gain confidence using the jar lifter?

  • Is my fear that glass will explode into a million shards all over my kitchen warranted?

  • Was I justified in screaming at my child, and later my husband, when they got too close to the jars right after I JUST said, "Don't touch the jars for 24 hours or you'll mess up the seal and all my hard work will be for nothing!"?

Any ideas, tips, comments, thoughts would be appreciated!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Brookside Gardens - how many different types of inspiration are there?

As a kid, I always enjoyed Brookside Gardens, in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland. I always looked forward to crossing the stone paths over various ponds, and walking for what feels (at least to a kid on a hot summer day) for miles and miles to the ultimate destination - the Japanese Tea House - a peaceful, natural structure surrounded by great boulders and weeping trees and shrubs of all sorts, and overhanging a large pond filled with koi when I was a child, and turtles today. I'm not sure if the reminiscent feeling is due to the summer days I spent there as a child, but being there transports you to another place and time. Just past the Japanese Tea House, is a fairly new labyrinth worth the long winding race walk to reach the end to jump up and down and cheer- unless of course, you're using the labyrinth for it's intended purpose - meditation. Here is a beautiful spot with a beautiful message along the way to the Japanese Tea House.

As an adult, I appreciate the new Visitor's Center where I attended a Horticulture Symposium with my friend Grace last year. It was great fun to have a full day of inspiration and be in an auditorium filled with other gardening fanatics from every neighboring state. Today, I appreciated that the Visitor's Center is also at the midway point so my heat-exhausted kids could smile again upon entering the air-conditioned building. After getting water and using the bathroom, we exit again to play and explore in the also fairly new, and very manageable sized Children's Garden.

As a parent, I was a damn good sport for taking my kids to the annual Wings of Fancy butterfly show. Here's a little secret - I'm deathly afraid of butterflies. Though some may see these creatures as beautiful and delicate wonders of nature, I see them as enormous winged insects that can't see where they're going. Often, they dive bomb towards my face, just to veer away at the last moment. Usually at this Wings of Fancy show, they land on me. Last year, to both freak me out and embarrass me publicly, a butterfly sat right on my backside between the butt cheeks for the entire length of our visit. Having learned that butterflies are attracted to bold colors (I wore green pants last year), I dressed in gray capris and a dark gray tank top today. Did that bring any reprieve? At one point, I had a butterfly on my head, one on my shoulder, and had big time heebie jeebies, all the while with smile on face, "Look, Lyric! Aren't they beautiful" through clenched teeth, tight fists, and goosebumps all over. In fact, just seeing the extent of the goosebumps today gave me goosebumps. This is why I feel that as a parent, I'm a damn good sport.

Can you spot the butterfly in the photo below? As I've mentioned before, nature is weird.

As a conservationist obsessed with saving water, I was in awe at this huge structure below, just imagine how much rain you could capture with this baby! hhhhaaaaawwwww... I also loved the bright green plants arranged like stepping stones - or at least that's how it looked to me.

As a gardener with about eight new fall gardening catalogs to peruse, I was inspired by the late summer perennials on display - today I fell in love with gomphrena "strawberry fields". I must have it.

As a new garden blogger eager to share, I can't explain why I didn't take any pictures of the many gorgeous plant and flower combinations, or the beautiful and serene landscaping. My only thought is that maybe since a large garden is so full of different types of inspiration, the brain can only register so much. Each time I visit, I think, "I really have to come here more often", and perhaps when I do next, the Fragrance Garden will pique my interest, or maybe the native trees, or perhaps the woodland plantings, or the garden structures, or the use of ornamental grasses, or the tropicals, or the spring bulbs, or the plaque inscriptions, or the autumn interest, or the... You know what I'm talkin' about.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Panzanella salad - show off your summer bounty

I love this panzanella salad because I can put it together quickly without consulting a cookbook, because it tastes like summer on a plate, and because when my guests comment on how delicious it is (cause they always do), I can casually point out that the ingredients come from my garden. Don't believe me? Try it yourself. I'd like to know if they DON'T ooh and aah over it!

Toss together in a large bowl:
  • french bread cubed and sauteed in a pan with olive oil and chopped garlic
  • tomatoes cut into wedges or large chunks
  • sliced fresh mozzarella - I aim for large bite sized pieces
  • basil snipped into thin ribbons
  • very thinly sliced red onion
  • a very generous amount of balsamic vinegar drizzled on the salad to taste

The bread will soak up the balsamic vinegar and juice from the tomatoes. Feel free to add an extra drizzle of olive oil if you like.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hey rodents: try to get my squash now!

In my garden, it's a fight to the finish. Could be a raccoon, could be a rabbit, could be my very own Sassy cat. Either way, they're all rodents. Rodents: you're officially on notice!

One point for the rodent:

One point for me:

Stay tuned to see how this match ends...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hillbilly is the one, I do reckon

In our very small scale taste test of the tomatoes grown in the Greenish Thumb potager, we found Hillbilly to be the winner in ALL the following categories: appearance, taste, harvest, and size. This was a blind taste test. Here are the tomatoes we tested in rank order:

Best: heirloom Hillbilly!!! To be noted: this is the second year that Hillbilly has been voted best tomato in a blind taste test.

2nd place: store bought vine-ripened tomatoes...the judge thought for sure this tomato was from the GT potager.

3rd place: heirloom beefsteak...the judges, or at least the judge who could speak eloquently about the tomato's intricacies, found the beefsteak tomato gross and almost mealy. The 4 year old simply ate her tomato obediently with no comment.

4rd place: heirloom Cherokee purple...disqualified due to extremely deep and ugly catfacing rendering it inedible - to be noted: this is the second year in a row for disqualification. Interestingly, three years ago, this tomato won first place.

Here is the precious Hillbilly below (I'm referring to the tomato, not the man). The photo does not do the beautiful yellow orange color of the Hillbilly justice. Notice the generous size of the tomato. Upon tasting the tomatoes, both judges (the adult and the 4 year old) still blind, instantly exclaimed at how delicious it was. The Hillbilly tomato plant has been producing almost as many tomatoes as the beefsteak, and every tomato has been perfect in shape, color, and size thus far. The tomato has just the right amount of juice and we find it to be slightly sweet as well, with smooth, cool flesh. Of course, being an heirloom, the tomato has a classic tomato flavor, unlike most store bought tomatoes. If you haven't tried the Hillbilly, it's a must for your garden next year!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Today's project: ground red pepper

I love a really spicy dish whether it's a spicy beef Vietnamese noodle soup, an Indian vindaloo, or a pasta with tomato sauce that packs heat. Remarkably, I'm a really good pepper grower (if you're thinking something like - oh, that's because peppers are really easy to grow, just don't tell me because my pepper harvest really helps to boost my gardening confidence each year when everything else dies).

Yesterday and today's task was to figure out what to do with all the cayenne peppers. Who can cook all these peppers (especially if you're the only one in your family who loves spice)?! I decided to make my own ground pepper to use throughout the next several months. I generally buy spices without too much thought as to how the powder or flake gets into the little jar (you go to the store, stand at the rack, find your spice by alpha order, put it on the conveyor belt and pay). It was very cool to see that within 24 hours, my cayenne peppers could begin in the garden, and end up a perfectly ground spice in a little glass jar, and that I could make it all by myself. Doubters, watch the process unfold...

Here are the peppers on the plant, in my garden 24 hours ago.

The peppers are first rinsed and dried gently and thoroughly. I read about a few different methods of drying peppers, and decided to experiment. I strung some up with thread to air dry in the house (more below), but the quickest method was to use the oven. The lowest setting my oven would allow was 170 degrees, and this temperature was just right. I cracked the oven door to allow for a little air circulation. Here are the peppers ready to be dried in the oven. Notice there is room around each pepper, and that they're not touching. The larger pepper (I have yet to figure out what type of pepper it is, but it's a spicy one) was cut in half to speed drying. You can discard the seeds, but I wanted to keep the seeds for more heat in my ground pepper. ***Caution: when cutting hot peppers, it's a very good idea to wear rubber gloves as the capsaicin remains on your skin for a long time (like when you're eating something that's finger lickin' good, or like when you're putting your contacts in. Ouch).

I didn't time the process, but it probably took about...8 hours or so to completely dry the peppers. They're done when there is no moisture left whatsoever in the pepper. I did have to leave the house to run some errands twice during the day, so I just turned the oven off, kept the peppers in there, and turned the oven back on when I got back in. I did turn the peppers over once or twice during the entire process, but I'm not sure this is even necessary. When they were completely dried, I just took them out and left them for today. The oven is at such a low temp, that it's not necessary to stand guard at the oven all day.

***Caution: If anyone in your family is very sensitive to hot peppers, you may want to use a different method. For us, it was not like a tear gas bomb in our kitchen or anything, but there was definitely an odor (or fragrance - depending on how much you like hot peppers!) throughout the house, and one child sneezed a little bit and complained her nose felt like it had pins and needles in it. I did not have this problem at all, and neither did the other 2 family members. I did keep the side door open though.

Here are the peppers in a bag and ready to be ground. In reality, they're a dark red, not quite the black as the photo makes it appear.

Here's our process for grinding the peppers. You can use a food processor or grinder, but I've read this will give you more of a powder than a flake, like I wanted to have.

Here is the dried cayenne pepper, crushed to my liking and ready to be added to pasta, soup, stir fry, sauce, pizza, French fries, and anything else I can think of!

Here is the other part of the experiment. Directions on the web specify to use a thick needle and fishing line or super thick thread to string the peppers, which I did not have. I used a regular sewing needle and some thick sewing thread, and so far, it seems to have worked fine. I have read that the process of air drying in the house - preferably in a sunny and dry spot, can take about 3 weeks. I have also read some reports of the peppers molding on the inside using this method, which is why I decided to dry some in the oven as well, just in case. I will report back on how the air drying goes! Isn't it a cute and festive decoration?!

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

On the 15th of each month, garden bloggers the world over showcase what's blooming in their gardens. Information is on May Dreams Gardens blog. Click to see what's going on in other gardens! Here are some of my blooms this August 15th, 2009...

First and foremost, the Southern Magnolia below, so wonderfully fragrant it knocks you out (bet you can smell it if you get real close)...

The burgundy gaillardia...

Keys of heaven in the foreground and ever-reliable moonbeam coreopsis

A rose here and there...

One of my absolute favorites - the Russian sage (with some Kim's mop head echinacea fuzzy and peeking in the background)...

Non-stop blooming marigolds and the planter in the background. My upright piece in the planter is the asparagus fern, which I'm not completely happy with - though the foliage is interesting, it does not provide the height I was looking for.

Window boxes - struggling, but these flowers are survivors!
The plant we all take for granted until they delight with their blooms, liriope...

And in the shade garden, the new astilbe...
Meet you back in the fall!!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Low country landscape and the story of Spanish Moss

This is the third and final installment of vacation-related photos and stories. These photos below show some of the low country of South Carolina. We love the marshes, grasses, and waterways of this area. I am surprised to be unable to see an egret in these photos as they are usually spotted in the landscape.

What strikes us most is always the beautiful old oaks covered in Spanish moss as you can see below. Spanish moss is not truly a moss or lichen, but a flowering plant in the bromeliad family. It has aerial roots and tiny flowers that are typically very inconspicious. The plant is propagated by seed and vegetatively by fragments that are carried by wind and stick to tree limbs or carried by birds for nests.

When we were visiting the Angel Oak (see previous post), I read a story on a magnet about the moss that honestly sort of ruined it for me. Here's a similar story if you're a story lover, though I warn you - you may want to just end here because in my opinion, the story is not great...

"There was once a traveler who came with his Spanish fiancée in the 1700s to start a plantation near the city of Charleston SC. She was a beautiful bride-to-be with long flowing raven hair. As the couple was walking over the plantation sight near the forest, and making plans for their future, they were suddenly attacked by a band of Cherokee who were not happy to share the land of their forefathers with strangers. As a final warning to stay away from the Cherokee nation, they cut off the long dark hair of the bride-to-be and threw it up in an old live oak tree. As the people came back day after day and week after week, they began to notice the hair had shriveled and turned grey and had begun spreading from tree to tree. Over the years the moss spread from South Carolina to Georgia and Florida. To this day, if one stands under a live oak tree, one will see the moss jump from tree to tree and defend itself with a large army of beetles."

In the story I read on the magnet, the couple were buried under the tree, and the spreading moss is a symbol of eternal love.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Angel Oak

On our recent trip to South Carolina, we visited what locals simply refer to as "The Tree". Behold... Angel Oak...

What you might like to know about the Angel Oak:
  • This Southern Live Oak is approximately 1500 years old.

  • The Angel Oak is 65 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter.

  • The largest limb is 89 feet long.

  • This majestic tree creates 17,000 square feet of shade with its canopy.

  • Angel Oak's name was derived from Angel Estate, however, local folklore tells stories of ghosts of former slaves appearing as angels around the tree.
  • Angel Oak is the oldest living organism east of the Mississippi River.

  • Angel Oak is located on John's Island, South Carolina and is owned by the City of Charleston. It is an admission free must-see when you're in or around Charleston.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chantenay Red Core Carrots - check out my harvest!

The price of carrot seed*...$2.00
The hours worked on preparing, planting, mulching, and watering this carrot bed...too many
The number of carrots harvested...4
The average length of each carrot...1 inch
Comments from the kids...priceless

11 y.o.: (upon cutting her carrot with knife and fork into toddler-sized bites) This is it?

4 y.o.: (upon eating her share of the harvest in one bite - and a little more optimistically) Mmm. Now I'm healfy!

*I reluctantly reveal that these seeds were from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but only reluctantly because I don't want to give the impression that the seeds aren't good. I order from them every year. They're a great little company and I'm just a crappy carrot grower! Check out their site!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pindo Palm Jelly

On the short walk from the pool to the house we rent in the "low country" in South Carolina, Winter picked a berry from the tons of these little palm trees in the community and said, "Mom, smell this." Well, I've played that game before and it's not always fun. I was cautious at first, but then quickly began oohing and aahhing over the fragrance that in an instant transports you to the warm sunny place of your dreams. You cannot prevent the immediate inclination to hold in your hand a drink blended with ice and topped with a frilly paper umbrella. The berry smelled distinctly tropical, and though the olfactory memories are quickly fading, I vaguely remember hints of mango, papaya, pineapple, whatever, just TROPICAL. As we walked home practically snorting the berry, two women rode by on bicycles and told us they heard it was possible to make jelly out of the berries. Well, color me paranoid, but I'm not about to pick berries from random palm trees (I'm from the suburbs of Maryland) and make jelly without doing my research.

Here's what the research shows: the palm is a Pindo Palm tree, aka Jelly Palm Tree if you're from Florida, or aka Pindo Date if you're from the Deep South. I did find a recipe for Palm Jelly, appropriately from The Post and Courier, a publication out of Charleston, SC. The original article "Palm Jelly, One of Mother Nature's Tasty Gifts" from The Post and Courier contains other interesting recipes, and for my anonymous bacon fat loving friend, even lists a recipe that calls for a cup of bacon fat. Oinky tasty!

As we were on the island, landscapers were removing the fruit bunches. Apparently, in the landscape Pindo Palm fruit can be a "nuisance" since they fall, become a mess, and are very attractive to wild animals. According to the recipe below, it may have been prime time for us to harvest the berries for jelly, as the fruit were beginning to fall from the palm. Here is more information and the recipe for Palm Jelly as copied from Teresa Taylor's original article. Next year I will try this for sure...


Chris (Chris Nietart is a Post and Courier reader who contributed the recipe) says the jelly is great on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with cream cheese on an English muffin, and also makes a nice glaze for poultry and sweet potatoes.

Palm Fruit Jelly

5 cups juice (see cook's note)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin
5 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter, to prevent foaming

Cook's note: Gather fruit when the first fruit begins to fall from the tree, Chris says. People are happy for you to take it, especially if you give them a jar of jelly in return. I collect it in a plastic clothes basket and let the fruit ripen outdoors until it begins to fall off the stalk, usually in a day or two. I covered it with screening this year to keep flies away!

Rinse the fruit thoroughly; it is not necessary to remove the 'caps' on the fruit as they will cook off. Fill a large pot with the fruit leaving several inches at the top. Cover the fruit with water, bring it to a boil, and then cook at medium for 1 hour uncovered. Let the fruit cool down for an hour. To collect the juice: Scoop portions of fruit and juice into a jelly bag over another container and squeeze the bag to get the juice, some of it will appear thick, and then discard the pits. (This is the messy part). You may notice that your juice may vary in thickness, and you can combine all of it and stir to get a more homogenous batch before you begin the jelly making. As I measure for each batch, I sieve it through a cloth baby diaper (purchased new for this purpose) to remove any small bits of pulp.

To make jelly: In large pot (pasta size) combine palm juice and lemon juice, and stir in box of pectin, using a whisk. Heat to a boil and stir in sugar and butter. Bring mixture back to a boil and turn heat down to medium high and continue to cook for 13-15 minutes. Monitor closely so that it does not boil over. Palm jelly requires longer cooking time than other jelly.

Pour jelly into half-pint sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, and process for 5 minutes.

Thanks also to Virginia Edmonds of Ladson, who sent a copy of a Post and Courier article from 1979. The recipe was similar; however, it did note that if the fruit mixture fails to jell, it's delicious over pancakes, waffles or ice cream.

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