In My Garden – May 2019

In My Garden – May 2019

Tony Avent, the owner of Plant Delights Nursery, once said “you don’t know a plant until you have killed it three times”. Gardeners require patience and perseverance, we learn equally by our mistakes and our successes. The best gardens are deeply personal, bringing to life a unique vision and aesthetic which will be specific to the climate and soil.

The last 12 months have been an education for me in the Fort Bragg garden. The gardening environment is completely different than my previous garden in Oakland. How you ask? Well let me count the ways…

1 The soil is acidic due to the numerous conifers (pines and redwoods) surrounding the property (Oakland soil was alkaline to neutral),

2) The soil is sandier due to the coastal dunes not far away (the Oakland garden used to be a creek bed and was heavy clay…I once threatened to make a pot from it). The upside is that it drains well if the rain is not too heavy.

3) The soil is much leaner and needs tons of compost to enrich it (clay soil is full of nutrients but needs lots of lightening…both need compost),

4) The climate here is wetter in the winter; many of my fall planted ‘drought resistant plants’ succumbed to drowning.

5) The climate is much cooler in the summer, fog and cool evenings are common in mid-summer.

And lastly…

6) the planting beds have root competition due to the many Redwood trees surrounding my sunny meadow.

Redwoods have an extensive root system, the tiny roots can stretch as much as 100 feet from each tree but are only about 2 feet deep. Redwoods don’t have a tap root. That extensive root system, which connects with other trees surrounding them, is what holds them upright. And, those roots are invasive, searching out water and nutrients. I love the redwoods but have found I occasionally need to dig out their roots from my planting beds.

The plants and shrubs are starting to take off and the planting beds are a riot of color. I am particularly found of a Geum called totally tangerine. It grows into a green mound about 3 feet by 3 feet with branching flower stems of tangerine colored flowers on stalks that wave in any breeze. They seem to love the growing conditions here and are thriving. The orange color is particularly attractive combined with red and orange poppies and the wildflower baby blue eyes.

Geum Totally Tangerine

The pollinator wildflower garden is finally taking off. I hear lots of buzzing when I walk near it and the butterflies seem to have discovered it.

Pollinator Meadow May 2019

American Lady Butterfly

We finished adding the final two raised beds to the vegetable garden. This month I harvested the last of the kale (now blanched and in the freezer) and planted my first warm season veggies. They include bush beans, red runner pole beans, summer squash, basil, and summer lettuce. I warned my favorite builder that we may need to add a hoop house to one of the beds to give the zucchini more warmth.

Last year I planted tomatoes and cucumbers but our summer was too cool and foggy for them. The few that did grow were pecked by the ravens before they ripened. I’m not even going to try this year. I have more hope for the summer squash…fingers crossed, hence the hoop house.

My mini-farm of 5 raised beds

The runner beans are planted in a half wine barrel. In our temperate climate they sometimes act as perennials and will come back from the roots. They were a favorite of my grandfather and did come back for him each year in the U.K. They also tolerate cooler weather, which is a blessing.

Both the sweet pea flowers and the edible peas are doing well. I harvested the first peas this past weekend to make a pea and asparagus salad.

Pea, Asparagus and Cauliflower Salad with Mint and Almonds

The sweet pea flowers are very aromatic, so far only the pink ones are blooming. They are one of my favorite flowers and always remind me of my grandmother in England. She had a long row of them at the side of her garden.

Pink Sweet Peas

Now to end with a quick look at the two main garden beds off the back of the house.

The rhododendrons are starting to bloom, a little later this year than last.

And here is a look at the garden last year in May, 2018.

Garden chores for this month include side dressing with compost and weeding.

I’ve planted lettuce, arugula, cilantro, basil, summer squash, runner beans and bush beans from seed.

May – Broccoli Salad to Bridge the Seasons

May – Broccoli Salad to Bridge the Seasons

It’s spring, but the weather here does not exactly match the season. It’s cool and overcast most days. But it’s impossible to resist the call of the BBQ and eating outside. The question is what to serve, do you have some favorite BBQ sides? Fresh summer tomatoes are still months away. A salad that bridges the seasons is needed. This broccoli salad is perfect. Roasted riced broccoli, crisped on the edges, is the main component. Add in pine nuts, garlic, lemon, dates, red onion, and sheep’s milk feta for additional flavor and deliciousness. It’s briny, crunchy, sweet, and tart. All in a single bite! I find raw broccoli a chore to chew, roasting softens it a little. I found that roasting also adds an additional toasty element. The broccoli chars slightly and crisps at the edges of the sheet pan.

Broccoli Salad

Many groceries carry riced broccoli but I don’t recommend it for this recipe. The commercially available riced mixes contain a large percentage of stem. You want the florets only for this recipe. It only takes a minute to rice the heads in a food processor. Purchase a large head and save the stems for another recipe. Try this garbanzo bean free recipe for broccoli stem hummus. Doesn’t that sound interesting? And a wonderful alternative for anyone watching their carbs.

Riced Broccoli Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of broccoli, florets only, very finely chopped in the food processor
  • 1 cup raw pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive or avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon, organic if possible
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or shredded on microplane
  • 4 dates – pitted and chopped into raisin sized pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 ox of feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small cubes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 additional tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, 220 degrees C
  2. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper
  3. In a large bowl combine the broccoli, pine nuts, olive or avocado oil, zest of 1 lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands and spread on the parchment lined sheet pan.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes until the broccoli and pine nuts are starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli to a large salad bowl. Toss with the lemon juice, wine vinegar and olive oil. Taste for salt and add as needed.
  6. Add the red onion, dates and feta. Mix again.

You can either serve this salad immediately or chill for up to 2 days. It’s a great do-ahead salad that won’t wilt once the weather warms. Also, without mayonnaise, it’s good for picnics.

Riced Broccoli Salad

 

 

 

May – Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

May – Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

What is that grain in the salad? Is it rice, is it cracked wheat, is it couscous? Nope, none of that. This salad is grain and gluten free. It’s my favorite substitution, cauliflower! And this salad is wonderfully delicious as well as healthy; it’s full of chopped herbs plus cherry tomatoes and toasted almonds with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. It keeps well so you can make it ahead.

I can find already riced cauliflower in the grocery store, both Trader Joe’s and Safeway carry it. But it is easy to make at home in your food processor if you need to start from scratch (or have cauliflower growing in your garden…lucky you). I don’t recommend using the packaged already riced cauliflower if you are making mock mashed potatoes I think it has a high percentage of stem. It won’t result in a creamy rich amazing mashed potato substitute. You need to have mostly florets for that recipe. But, it is perfect for use in this recipe. The kernels hold their shape and crunch once cooked.

I roasted the cauliflower for extra flavor before mixing it with the other ingredients.

Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

If you are starting with a head of cauliflower, slice the head in half and remove the tough core. Roughly chop the florets. Working in batches, add the cauliflower to your food processor and pulse until the consistency of ‘rice’. Transfer to a large bowl.

Ingredients:

Cauliflower:

  • I head of cauliflower or a package of pre-riced cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons of fruity olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad:

  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup of coarsely chopped flat leaved parsley
  • 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped mint
  • 4 scallions white and light green, chopped
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced to make about 1/4 cup of juice
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 3/4 cup of sliced almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the riced cauliflower in a large bowl and add the olive oil, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes until tender and browning around the edges. You may need to leave it for a few additional minutes but check it so it doesn’t burn. Remove the sheet from the oven and let cool on the parchment paper.
  4. Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet and toast in the same oven for about 5 minutes, again check constantly as they will turn from nicely toasted to burnt in seconds. Remove and cool.
  5. While the cauliflower is cooking you can make the herb salad. Combine all the ingredients for the salad in a bowl and let the herbs and tomatoes marinate until the cauliflower is cool.
  6. Once cool, add the cauliflower to the bowl with the salad and mix well. The parchment paper works well as you can just lift it off the baking sheet. Taste to see if you need to add any additional lemon juice or salt or pepper.
  7. Chill until ready to serve, garnished with the toasted sliced almonds.

I found this salad kept well and was still good the next day for lunch.

You could turn this into an entire meal by adding some sliced feta or leftover chicken to the salad. It would be an excellent side with lamb chops or kebobs.

Middle Eastern Cauliflower and Herb Salad

I’m taking this to share with fellow bloggers at Fiesta Friday #274, over at Angie’s place (where she is feeling the need for spring cleaning). Please click over to meet other food, garden and craft bloggers. And guess what, I am co-hosting with Antonia @ Zoale.com

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

April – Grilled Cheese with Prosciutto and Kale

April – Grilled Cheese with Prosciutto and Kale

My garden is overflowing with kale, and unfortunately, it is not my favorite green. I know it’s good for me, full of antioxidants and other vitamins, but I have a hard time getting around to cooking it. Enter some great ideas from two books, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler and Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Norsrat. Ms. Adler modeled her book after one of my favorite food essayists, M.F.K. Fisher. Her classic collection of essays, How to Cook a Wolf, was written amid the hardships of W.W. II and is about cooking well in spite of lack. The New York Times described it as “spiritually restorative”. Ms. Adlers book is about eating affordably, responsibly, and well. There are recipes but it also contains many ideas to think about in light of our current global situation. I recommend all three of the books, they are essential parts of my library..

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent and turn this into a book review.

So, on to grilled cheese…

Ms. Adler recommends pre-cooking or preparing the greens as soon as you get them into your kitchen from the market or your garden. That way they are ready to finish quickly. Blanching also removes most of the bitterness from kale. So, I took her advice using the blanching instructions by Ms. Norsat. What a fabulous idea! The greens are ready to saute or add to a soup or other dish. A bonus is how much less space they take up in the fridge. You will see her simple instructions below.

Enter Friday night and the complete loss of ambition. Do you ever get like that? I couldn’t think of a single thing I really wanted to cook, and I write a food blog. With no energy to make a quick trip to the market, my husband suggested “Why don’t we just make grilled cheese?” It was a request to make me smile. Grilled cheese is one of my favorites, and not an everyday meal. It’s a special treat because we have cut down on both gluten and dairy, we don’t have either very frequently. This simple Friday night dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches became a special occasion. It was time to take a quick assessment of what was in the fridge and pantry. Earlier that afternoon we had picked up a loaf of wonderful seeded whole wheat bread from Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino. That already blanched kale added another layer of deliciousness and health. Rounding out my ingredient list was a package of thinly sliced prosciutto I found in the cheese drawer (kale pairs especially well with cured meats according to the The Flavor Bible), and a sharp white cheddar from the UK. It melted beautifully.

The combo elevated grilled cheese to a gourmet treat.

Seed Bread

Just look at that melty cheese!

Grilled Cheese with Kale

I used a panini press but a heavy skillet would work just as well.

To prepare your greens:

  • Wash them if they have just come in from the garden or farmer’s market.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it liberally. Put a half sheet pan or baking dish next to the pot and line it with parchment paper.
  • Drop the trimmed greens (strip off any tough stems) into the pot and bring it back to the boil.
  • Cook until tender, my variety of kale only needed a couple of minutes. Chard may take up to 3 while collards could take as much as 15. Taste a sample to determine when they are tender.
  • Using a sieve or spider to to pull the greens from the pot and spread them on your baking pan to cool.
  • Once cool, squeeze out any excess water using your hands or a dishtowel.
  • Chop them coarsely and store in the fridge until ready to use.

To prepare the sandwiches…

Ingrediens for 2:

  • 4 slices of sturdy bread
  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto or other deli meat
  • 4 generous slices of a good sharp melting cheese
  • about 1/3 cup of precooked kale per sandwich
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • butter or oil if frying in a pan

Method:

  1. Lay out two slices of bread, cover each with a layer of kale (sprinkled with a pinch of red pepper flakes), then prosciutto, then cheese. Cover with the second slice of bread.
  2. Grill or fry until the bread is crisp and cheese is melted.

Sliced sturdy bread

The seeds were deliciously crunchy and flavorful. A green salad rounded out the meal.

Grilled cheese and salad

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. This sandwich would also make a fabulous Saturday lunch, put an egg on it and it could be brunch.

I going to take this idea to the folks at Fiesta Friday, it’s Fiesta Friday #271, hosted by Angie. The co-host this week is Ai @ Ai Made It For You

Come enjoy the posts on food, crafts and gardening.

In My Garden – April 2019

In My Garden – April 2019

Spring is finally here and the rain continues, at least the weather has warmed somewhat with highs in the 50’s. But the skies are mostly grey and the garden seems to be a bit behind where it was last year. The daffodils have bloomed, and continue to bloom, in waves depending on the variety.

The lily of the valley bushes are putting out red and orange new growth.

Lily of the Valley Bush

These bushes make a lovely backdrop for the first rhododendron to bloom, a beautiful yellow one of shorter stature. This bush was on the south/west side of the house before we added the addition and didn’t look happy with the sun and heat. It is thriving in its new, shadier, home in the back of the yard.

Yellow Rhododendron

The azaleas are in full bloom.

And a lime colored fuchsia that was planted several years ago when we first purchased the house finally seems to be taking off. It’s especially lovely against the dark redwood of the deck.

Lime leaved fuchsia

Compared to last year, the bearded irises along the driveway have not shown the same growth. But it has been rainier and colder this year. I will fertilize them this month, as suggested on line, with a low nitrogen fertilizer.

Much to my surprise, the tulips (not supposed to be cold enough for them here) have come back this year and multiplied. They are planted in a half barrel with a butterfly bush.

The sweet flowering peas I planted last fall have definitely taken off with the warming weather, although there are no flower buds yet. It will still be a month or more before I can harvest armloads of the wonderful scented flowers.

The half barrel of bush snap peas has just started to flower. I’ve been harvesting shoots of these edible peas for salads as well.

You can see both of them at the back of the vegetable garden.

Here’s a quick photo of the meadow, you can clearly see the chaos…which was my intention. This will be a pollinator garden once it starts flowering.

Wildflower and pollinator garden

The vegetable garden in raised beds continues to flourish. I’m harvesting lots of greens for salads and struggling to keep up with the kale.

Vegetable raised beds

I have four new bare root roses, planted in half barrels for safety and protection from gophers. Although we keep up with them by trapping, overlooking one for several days would be disastrous to the rose bush. The newly planted roses are shades of pink, apricot and orange.

Bare Root Rose Bushes

I thought you might also like a quick look at the wild part of the garden, of which there are acres.

A friend requested that I add a few comments each month on what I have planted or chores performed. Keep in mind that I am gardening in zone 9b and your own planting times may be different.

Chores:

  • fertilize iris bed with low nitrogen fertilizer
  • cut back salvias and sages to encourage bushiness now that our last frost date has passed
  • fertilize citrus trees
  • add compost around plants
  • weed, weed, weed

April planting:

  • vegetables – from seed: lettuce, arugula, beets, radishes, carrots
  • 4 bare root roses for half wine barrel containers
  • 5 new dahlia bulbs
  • small annuals such as baby blue eyes and poppies
  • 2 orange rhododendrons
  • pink lily of the valley bush
  • 5 white rock roses

New plants coming later this month:

And lastly, a look at the garden this time last year April 2018 In the Garden. Just click on the title to see the older post. The deer fence was’t finished until mid-May of last year. The garden has changed a lot since then, as I haven’t had to worry about planting exclusively deer and rabbit resistant plants (there are very few deer proof plants).