Wednesday, June 29, 2011

GTTC - Italian sausage summer pasta (prize announced)

June 15th is garlic harvesting day (at least on the calendar). I harvested my reasonable sized garlic - ajo rojo, inchelium, early red, and an unnamed variety I got from the Washington Youth Garden in DC while volunteering last summer. Though the garlic was pretty enough, after reading about and seeing images of Entangled's ajo rojo garlic, I started to wonder if my ajo rojo was actually ajo rojo. At each harvest, I mark the biggest bulb to replant in the fall and TRY to do a good job labeling each variety of garlic, but it's within the realm of possibility that I've gotten cloves/varieties mixed up. Either way, I've decided that this fall, I will be ordering new planting stock- and will be sharing my order with a lucky winner drawn from all the Garden to Table Challenge entries thus far. Depending on postal regulations, I may have to limit this to gardeners who live in the U.S. If you want a chance to enter, simply link below with your post that refers to the GTTC. I will draw a name from all the entries on Friday, July 8th.

This week, I didn't get too fancy, but made a simple pasta dish that the family enjoyed: spaghetti, chopped hot Italian sausage, pine nuts, spinach (I suppose I could have used basil for a more summery dish), shaved parmesan and of course LOTS AND LOTS of fresh garlic.

What's going on in your summer garden and kitchen?

*** On a personal note, the fried computer has been replaced, but now we attack the problem of the fried FIOS cable. Don't know when I'll be back online at home... In addition to these technical troubles, I have having a hell of a time commenting on my favorite blogs! Luckily I'm able to blog read, but as of now, am not able to blog comment. If you're on my list of faves (and you know you are!) know that I'm reading and enjoying but am somewhat mute right now!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The process of doing

I guess without a home computer and without all the photos I'd been saving on it (and consequently deleting from my camera), the only thing I'm able to do right now is wax poetic on gardening and life topics. Lucky you for happening upon this post!

Yesterday was my birthday and I received my birthday request - to have a full day's worth of uninterrupted gardening. I did hear one loud, "MOOOOM!!!", but then silence, so someone must have taken care of it.

The task of the day was to complete the weeding of the front perennial bed. As I was on hands and knees meditatively pulling weeds near the blueberry shrubs in the front, I had a brilliant idea. Rather than keeping the small area near the front door clear of plants so that I could step into the garden to pick blueberries, I would instead place a few stepping stones in the bed. This would be not only practical, but pretty to look at and also cut back on the amount of weeds I'd have to pull. This doesn't sound very profoundish. I know.

The simple idea of adding a few stepping stones would never have occurred to me if I weren't on my hands and knees pulling weeds. Here's the thing. I'm a planner. I'm extremely organized. When I get a new wallet, each slot needs to be designated to hold something. In garden terms, this means everything is pretty played out in my head - the colors, the height, the space, etc. I'm not saying everything looks great, but for my taste and within the confines of my artistic ability, there's a place for each plant, and each plant is in it's place. I know this because I stand outside with pencil and paper and sketch out a plan. I sit indoors and sift through catalogs and books and get it ALL FIGURED OUT.

The profoundish part is this: I'm working on a project that is very ambitious and fairly creative. I apologize for being vague - but it's one of those I-don't-want-to-jinx-it kind of things. For the first time in my life, I'm procrastinating. But I know why I'm procrastinating. It's because for the first time in my life, I'm afraid that I won't be able to do what I'm hoping to be able to do. The idea is well thought out. I know because I've drafted it. I've talked about it. I've dreamt about it. What I haven't done, is execute it. For about 2 years now, my friend Nicole has been telling me the equivalent of "You have to just do it". She has explained to me - in a way that only an artist is able to fully explain - this is a creative process and in the process of DOING it, all kinds of wonderful things happen - things take shape and things change shape. This was the jist of it - less eloquently said I'm sure.

So as I whiled away the day, I saw elements of the garden that I would never have noticed standing with a piece of paper, trying to design the perfect layout. However, sitting on the ground with hands in the dirt, I saw the soil in a different way, viewed the blueberry shrubs at a different level, and through the process of doing, a practical little stone path was revealed to me.

Now if I can just apply this to my project and cut the freaking procrastination and fear, I'll be in good shape!

Friday, June 24, 2011

GTTC: berries

The most significant tip I have to share with you this week is: get a surge protector!!! During the last thunderstorm, A very close and very powerful bolt of lightening zapped the electronics in my house leaving the TV partially green, and the computer completely dead. I'm trying not to freak out yet (all the photos! All the documents!) - perhaps someone we know will be able to recover some of the information - and there's a new computer in store for us... But the drawback for this week is that I won't be able to show you the pretty golden-colored anne raspberries and polaris blueberries I picked this week. I made a little fruit salad with one of my favorite fruits - pineapple (that I didn't grow of course!). Drizzled on top was a simple sauce of orange juice and honey. A sweet and flavorful beginning-of-summer treat! Until the new computer arrives, please post your link the the comments below. Have a great week! A new prize will be announced next week! I'm excited about it...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fireflies and other creatures

The asclepias are buzzing. I guess soon we should start looking for caterpillars if we want to bring them in to examine like last year. Lots of pretty butterflies abound. Since I've decided to become a butterfly expert (well, the idea is there, the execution of the plan has not yet begun), I've become less terrified of the creatures. I can even get sort of close with my camera and not have goosebumps in fear that they'll fly back at me.

Ah...fireflies. The other day, my older daughter told me that the last of the official signs of summer (pool opened, school out, etc.) have been revealed - the first firefly of the season. I thought it would be interesting to post this because I figure they must be a cool local thing, but apparently fireflies thrive in just about every country of the world (is this true??).

Ok, you may know I don't like bugs and lightning bugs are no exception. I do have to admit how incredibly neato they are though. When I was young and children played outdoors until bedtime we collected the flashing bugs - in our hands, in nets, in jars...the really brave and patient kids would have a jar full of them. Here's another "fond" memory (not really because it's just mean, ok? but I was a kid and didn't know better): smearing a bug on the cement and seeing a streak of glowing light. Just so you know, it's possible to do this on your arm or leg too!

Do you have fireflies in your area? What are your "fond" memories?

Friday, June 17, 2011

GTTC - chicken and daylily stir-fry

This week, the daylily buds are prolific not only in the garden border but also on the dinner table. Daylilies are called "gum jum fa" in Chinese - literally translated as "golden needle flower". The prized yellow buds are available in Asian supermarkets dried, and for the noodle soup dish above, that will do. For the stir fry in the bottom right corner, I would use only fresh daylily buds. In this dish, they're eaten as a vegetable, add an al dente-like bite, and have just a very hint of sweetness. I love this typical Chinese stir fry with the abundance of yellow flowers and loaded up with cilantro. Here's the recipe and more on growing and cooking gum jum fa. For more info on the daylily, also see Autumn Belle's post here.

A note on the noodle making machine - it's a gorgeous old piece and older than I am. It's mesmerizing to watch noodles being made. Also above is a photo of sea cucumbers - a crazy little sea animal that Chinese people love to eat. It's really a matter of texture rather than taste, and despite the very high price tag, when it's chopped and cooked, tastes like little pieces of unflavored gelatin. I'n not a connoisseur and I could really take it or leave it (or pick it out - which is what I often do).

What are YOU growing and cooking up this week? Tell us about it by linking below. Don't forget to provide a link back to this blog in your post.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

GBBD - June 2011

Checkered lily seedpod above. Below, June blooms! Check out May Dreams Gardens to see what else is blooming all over the world.

Friday, June 10, 2011

GTTC - shrimp & grits and berry pie (and clematis rooguchi)

I don't get to appreciate clematis rooguchi nearly enough since it's tucked away in the deep shade garden, so I thought I'd feature it first.


This week's Garden to Table Challenge was pretty exciting for me. Shrimp and grits is a family favorite. I make the sauce with a heavy amount of butter and garlic, but have always been in a quandary over how to how to produce a greater amount of sauce without adding sticks of butter. I was so happy to find that making a broth from shrimp shells like (I think - but please correct me if I'm wrong) Holly from Tasty Travels did in a different dish, created a greater volume of sauce, a more flavorful sauce, and no additional fat. The fresh-from-the-garden snow peas and sugar snaps sauteed were an amazing addition.

And for dessert, there was the last of the strawberries, a small quantity of rhubarb, and wild mulberries. With some granny smith apples added...

... a delicious summer berry pie! We all fought for the single leftover piece. It almost got ugly, but the father made everyone share. Here's the recipe ...

What are YOU harvesting and cooking this week? Post, include a link to Greenish Thumb, link below, and let us know about it. I love your ideas and as you can see, they really inspire me!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kombucha update #3 and repurposing cans

I did not think there would be be a third update on kombucha. In case you missed it, here's the kombucha on day one and here's the daughter SCOBY that was produced a couple weeks later. In my last post, I admitted that I would not be a regular kombucha tea drinker, especially after I used the kombocha as fruit fly bait in a homemade trap of this sort. Well, in my third update, I would like to inform you that it is not necessary to begin with a SCOBY to produce more SCOBYs. Floating at the top of the fruit fly trap, is a SCOBY with four dead (hopefully) fruit flies carefully preserved within. KIINNNDDDAAAA scary. I decided to spare you the photo.

However, I did decide to share a photo of these cute containers (guess they'd be cuter if they were planted) outside El Carbon, a great little Latin American restaurant. Best pupusas. Ever.

Friday, June 3, 2011

GTTC - cool strawberry treats

After picking bowls full every day for a couple of weeks, it looks like the strawberries are just about done. This week, we kept cool with sorbet and ice cream. I particularly loved the sorbet - super fruity, sweet, light, cool, and incredibly easy to make. The recipe for Fresh Strawberry Sorbet:
  • simple syrup (1 cup sugar and 1 cup water, heated and then chilled),
  • 1 quart of strawberries, pureed,
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice,
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
Throw this chilled mixture into a proper ice cream maker. You know, I'm finished with the cheapo 20 piece plastic hand crank/rock salt contraptions that break upon first use. I'm talking plug in the wall, no cranking, done in 30 minutes. It's totally the way to go. The strawberry chocolate chunk ice cream was...just ok...learn from my mistakes - don't cut the sugar. Ice cream is supposed to be sweet.

This week, I award the first Garden to Table Challenge drawn from the names of GTTC participants. Tangled Branches has won a canning book. I think she has the Ball book, so I'll send The Joy of Pickling - a book I haven't read, but that looks great and has received many great Amazon reviews. Entangled - let me know how it is!

Want to be in it to win it for the next prize (which will occur whenever I think it up)? Simply post about what you're harvesting/cooking up, then link below. Name will be added to the jar for the next prize. The GTTC post will be up every Saturday. Link on the current week's post, whenever you want throughout the week. Don't forget to mention the GTTC in the body of your post. It's the right thing to do. :)

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