Friday, September 28, 2012

The good, the bad, and the ugly

I'm so contrived these days, but seems every year, I do some variation of a good, bad, and ugly post.  

The good - finally, a cute little watermelon.  But too little, too late you little watermelon!!!! It's almost October!

The bad - well, bad meaning good... A frickin' plethora of apples on the trees at the u-pick farm, and after a glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug of triple sec and tequila, some jars of strawberry margarita preserves! 

And the ugly - some one has taken a hole-puncher to this foliage.  Either that or some nasty bug has decided to really piss me off.  And then to add insult to injury, this Sassy cat of mine needs to make my planter a kitty bed.  Ah well, she's 11 years old this October.  Maybe I'll just leave her be.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A virtual visit to my table at the DC State Fair

It was so fun to host the Asian vegetables demo table as part of the DC State Fair at the Barracks Row Fall Festival. In the top photo, you see clockwise from the top: flowering chives, my cutting board which I used to show people how to prepare these vegetables for cooking, bitter melon peeking into the scene, the long speckled fuzzy melon, the Chinese long bean, kabocha pumpkin, and the little gourds I've been talking about recently. I did have some things to sample, like chrysanthemum tea and winter melon soup (you can see a big wedge of the giant winter melon on the right of the table in the photo with the green shirt guy).  My little one, who ate all day long from the awesome assortment of artisan pie, cupcake, and ethnic food trucks, is sneaking some of the taro chips I had out for sampling in the photo above.  She spent the day tagging along with her older sister and sister's friend, both of whom were very watchful and tolerant today!

Above, people are trying samples, checking out the veggies and the guy in the green is checking out the free seeds basket!  Those went quick!  The visitors were mostly city folk and had lots of container/balcony gardens.  I directed them to the malabar spinach, which vines and does well in containers.  People with community garden plots took home tatsoi (aka rosette bok choy or flat cabbage), to plant now for a fall/winter crop.  Gardeners who took home other seeds have to wait till spring.  Below, I have taro chips and the three brown taro roots underneath.  These don't grow well in our zone but taro is everywhere these days (dim sum, bubble tea, pastries, etc.), so I thought I'd share.  In the middle is lemongrass that I plan to root.  I also demo'd how to actually use lemongrass.  I love that stuff!!!  On the right are luffa gourds.  The shorter, fatter one is a smooth (aka sponge) luffa, at eating size.  The two longer ones are angled luffas.  The pom-pom'd thing is a sponge I made and gifted one year.  It has a luffa sheet on one side and terrycloth on the other.


In other goings on... above, the DC State Fair peeps are awarding the prizes for the best photograph contest (there were so many fun contests at this fair!!!!).  I think I heard an announcement that Kenneth of DC State Fair and The Indoor Garden(er) made up postcards for the runners up (the guy in yellow in the photo above is happy about that!).  I thought that was such a sweet prize to put together for the runners up.

My daughter and her friend bummed pies off of the DC State Fair's Best Pie leftovers rack.  Michael is an extra happy camper because his shirt is signed with x's and o's by the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders.  Rah! Rah! Rah! for a great day at the fair!


If you've been following my ramblings, you know my father is obsessed with little bottle gourds this year. He's going to freak out when I show him this arrangement I spotted at Whole Foods yesterday with the little bottle gourd anchoring the decor!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

How to dry bottle gourds

Though my father typically plants a couple of bottle gourd vines every season, this year, he went a little crazy.  Click here to see the gorgeous vines in his garden and learn about why his friends will be happy to receive these auspicious little gourds.

To dry the gourds for ornamental purposes, he harvested them at maturity.  These are miniature gourds, so they are tiny, but mature.  In the photos above, you see them as they look freshly cut from the vine.  He is stringing them to dry for seeds.  These are just the seedstock, not the ones he will dry for gifting.  


In the photo below, he has taken mature gourds and scraped off the outer peel with a sharp knife.  This is not a necessary step, but makes for a cleaner appearance.  Some of the gourds on the vine looked pretty jacked up with spots and other imperfections, but scraping the peel leaves them all pretty as can be as you can see in the photo below.  After scraping off the peel, he will sun dry them outdoors (bringing them in if it rains!!!).  It takes about a month to fully dry out.  My father actually used a food dehydrator during rainy days and at night to speed the process.  The few gourds in the batch that were not at full maturity when harvested shriveled a bit, and were left a little wrinkly.  Try to wait until the gourds are at full maturity before harvesting.  

The little gourds were dried on a woven tray as you see below.  The lighter ones were scraped first before drying.  The darker ones were not scraped and left to dry as is.   As you can see, they are just as lovely.  For a smoother appearance, the unscraped gourds can be lightly sanded for a smoother and more finished appearance, but as far as protecting the gourd, this is also an unnecessary step.  The ones my father really liked, he also painted with a light lacquer for a little shine.  If you try growing these little gourds, I'd love to know how it goes!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

GTTC: summer corn and sun tea

I'm one of those spoiled little darlins whose mom would cut corn off the cob for.  Today, this is still my favorite way of enjoying end-of-summer sweet corn goodness, with plenty of butter and some parsley and thyme from the garden.  

Summer is not my favorite season, but one thing I'll miss is a long hot day to brew sun tea.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

GTTC: more fish... and black eyed peas

I'm so freaking excited about these black eyed peas!  This is my kind of crop - sow seeds, let them grow amok, wait till they're rattling around in their pods, shell absolutely perfect little dried beans.

Below, another fish dish.  These little bundles are cooked individually and fun to cut open and eat.  Every time I cook a fish like tilapia, I'm stunned that dinner cost like $3 per person, especially cheap because almost everything else came from the garden.  In the packets: French filet beans, roasted red pepper, olives, garlic, tilapia, parsley, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pepper, sea salt.  20 minutes at 400F and a healthy dinner is done.  And your harvests?  Are you canning? Preserving? Making lots and lots of salsa maybe?  Share in the Garden to Table Challenge by linking us to your blog...

The candy lilies are entering their final stage of this year.  These are a sight all season - great spring foliage, super pretty blooms, the spiraling of the wilted flower, and the "blackberry" fall seeds.

Hope my American friends enjoy a restful Labor Day weekend!
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