Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ornamental Bottle Gourds

Regular readers of this blog know that my father is pretty obsessive.  For several years, he lovingly (and compulsively) raised chrysanthemums.  Towards the end of that phase, he went as far as wheeling some 40 pots of mums back and forth to sun on the driveway, then back to the garage for shelter from wind, rain, and frost.  He did this every day.  See here for the results of that care.  

This year, he is going nuts with bottle gourds.  He has again - maybe some...40 plants he is lovingly tending.  They are growing up bamboo supports, along a fence, up a trellis, over evergreens, in pots, wherever there was space to be found early this spring.  Some are large bottle gourds, but the fun this year is in growing miniature gourds.  The ones in the photos above have probably reached their full height at about 4 inches. I love how they look like little dangling lanterns.  

As with basically everything the superstitious Chinese people like, gourds are favored because they are auspicious.  The shape of the gourd resembles the calligraphic Chinese symbols meaning luck.  The word for bottle gourd "woo lo", is also similar in sound to the words that mean happiness and prosperity.

These "good luck gourds" are also one of the oldest crops in China where they're useful as containers or scoops in the house and garden.  A mature and dried bottle gourd is actually water-tight and so sturdy it can be used for generations.  And with the fact that they are delicious when young and can be made into any number of crafts when mature and dried, why not grow them?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

GTTC: French filet beans and our second week eating clean

Here's where we excel:  We don't keep junk food or junk drinks in the house.  When I cook, I cook good healthy meals.  Here's the problem: I don't cook nearly enough, opting for take out much too often.  As a busy working mom, having a plethora of great ethnic cuisine all around us, and a glut of those sorta cheap, fast carry out places makes a dinner of Baja Fresh, Chipotle, or Panera far too tempting.  And though we don't stock junk, my husband doesn't really register his nightly 7-11 runs. Upon hearing the deadbolt unlock, the kids yell up the stairs "Can you get me a Mountain Dew" or "Can I have a Gatorade and a bag of Fritos".  It's time for a change.  I've had my family on a 30 day "clean eating" program.  Here are our rules: lean proteins, whole grains, nothing processed, nothing refined, nothing fried, nothing manufactured.  No sugar, minimal salt, and for me in particular, no dairy.  Though my husband and I have both lost weight, that is not the goal.  The goal is to purge our systems of crap and to eat healthily like we should be doing in the first place.  

We're on day 13 and it's going well.  Many jokes have been cracked about "mom's diet food", but everyone has been compliant.  And one thing that has made me happy is that my little one, who seriously has the potential to be a junk food addict and obese adult (and who was literally fiending for chocolate in the first couple of days), has lost the cravings for junk.  

Above was a quick and cheap dinner of tilapia with a spicy harissa sauce along with my French filet beans which are producing like crazy (along with my black eyed peas and bolita beans - can't wait for these)

Ironically, having said all that about the junk, I just have to share the treat my older daughter (who never seems to be home anymore...sniff sniff...she's 14 now) and her friend made the other night.  In the center of each cookie is an Oreo!  

Below you see a project my little one created in camp.  It was so clever I had to share with my nature loving friends.  The stages of a butterfly's life is illustrated with pasta.

What are you harvesting and cooking this week?  I'd love to hear about it if you'll link below.  A final question  - have you started fall planting yet?  What are you growing?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

GTTC: soba noodles with peanut sauce

My lettuce completely bolted a long while ago, but just before they all reached the end (and before my technical problems), I was able to harvest some beautiful leaves and toss them with these soba noodles, cucumbers, and scallions in a peanut sauce.  The peanut sauce was made with chunky peanut butter, a little OJ, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and lots of garlic and ginger.  The whole thing is garnished with some fresh chopped mint.

I LOVE noodles - basically any kind of noodle from a southern noodle dumpling, to Singapore rice noodles.  I think wide rice noodles top the list, with soba just behind.  I learned something recently about soba noodles...After they are cooked, they need to be not only drained, but rinsed - and rinsed well.  Rinsed so that all the starch is removed.  This leaves you with a great pile of cold soba with a great al dente texture.  I've made a similar salad before, but rinsing the soba well really improved the dish.

What are you harvesting this week?  Have you replaced lettuce with another crop?  How are you using this week's harvests?  I'd love to know!  Link below to join the Garden to Table Challenge.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Scenes from the Low Country

Standing pretty on an island just south of Charleston, SC

The shrimp boat coming in

Uhh, I really thought this was just a silly sand creature running around in circles.  Upon closer inspection, I now know why it was running around in circles.  

Scamp on his first family vacation!  My husband wanted this well-loved broken-down old dog to see the beach, so he carried him down the boardwalk, across the sand, and back home.  Click here for Scamp's story.  

Southern sweet tea.  Nuff said.

At the Marina the day before Tiger Woods'  25 million dollar yacht sailed in for the PGA Tournament.   The day his yacht came in, so did a funnel cloud (literally).  

A most adorable little nephew, wouldn't you say?

There's a cute wall hanging in the house we rent that says, "Don't be crabby, you're on vacation".  Always good to keep in mind!

Monday, August 6, 2012

GTTC: spaghetti with fresh peas

The spaghetti above was a delicious summer dinner with crisped pancetta, pine nuts, and fresh shaved parm. There are also loads of fresh garlic and peas from the garden.  Funny story:  I'd forgotten I planted (or even purchased) peas!  I harvested and prepared to cook what I thought were snow peas when I found the peas inside bulging.  I'm going to admit here that this might be the first time I've ever had fresh peas (always had a pea aversion), and they were amazing.  Really sweet - almost like corn.  I wasn't even sure how to cook them, so I just heaped hot spaghetti over them to heat them up a bit.  Here's another secret about this dish above - the noodles were parboiled, and then cooked down in white wine - sort of risotto style.  Complex taste, full flavor, and easy to make too!

I'm pretty happy with my garlic this year.  I haven't done a true taste test since I bought the original planting stock about 7 years ago, but the early red and ajo rojo are definitely the most beautiful with their red streaks.

This garlic was harvested quite a few weeks ago, but with the technology problems I've been having, I'm just getting to post pics now.  But...I am back from the beach - spent lots of time lazing on a raft, reading magazines, eating, watching the Olympics and the anger I've been feeling has dissipated for the most part so I'm back to my Garden to Table Challenge posts.  What else are you harvesting?  How has this summer treated your garden?  How are you using your harvests?  Link below and tell us about it!

Related Posts with Thumbnails