In My Garden – April 2021

Spring is an especially beautiful season in Northern California. The winter rains encourage an explosion of flowers as soon as the weather warms a bit and the sun comes out. Just taking my camera for a walk is an adventure.

So, I’m not going to do a lot of writing this post. I hope you will join me for a leisurely saunter around the garden, maybe with a glass of rose or a cup of tea in hand.

Here are the photos.

In the vegetable garden I am worried about having space for the zucchini and tomatoes that will soon need their own bed. I hate to pull anything out as everything is doing so well. We are enjoying salads every night.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


In the pollinator garden native perennials predominate. It will be interesting to see what grows as the year progresses. It’s been 4 years since I first seeded it with a commercial mix of Northwest optimized meadow wildflowers. This area gets minimal to no summer water and very little attention except to whack it back in the late fall. It’s an interesting and ever changing experiment.

Some small plants were added, the ceanothus, mimulus, and pineapple sage. The lilies were shared garden gifts from friends. The small oak tree grew from an acorn that hitch hiked in a planter from our Oakland garden. The squirrels buried them in all my pots each fall. It’s only about a foot tall right now but seems to be thriving. Hard to believe it may eventually grow in a giant tree like the one that shaded our back deck each summer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is what it looked like in April of 2020.

Pollinator Garden April 2020

Wildflower and pollinator garden April 2020

And now, a walk around the rest of the garden beds starting with those closest to the vegetable garden and rounding towards the garage.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The rhododendrons are just starting to bloom, the azaleas were first.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I used to think succulents were boring, but there have been an explosion of varieties in the past few years. Many of them are absolutely gorgeous.


Chores for the month include weeding (my least favorite garden activity), but they are definitely getting out of hand.

We’ve had the second driest winter in 100 years…

As a result we are putting in a rain catchment tank the end of the month. It won’t help much this year but water has become a serious concern. I’m starting to shift the garden to more water wise plants and encouraging the existing ones to dig deeper with their roots.

Thank you for following me around the garden. I hope your own spring garden, large or small, is doing well.

October – Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

October – Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

I am very partial to roasted vegetables of any type. Vegetables in the family Brassicaceae or Crucifereae are particularly delicious cooked that way. Roasting enhances the sweetness of cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Did you know the family takes its alternative name from the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross (Crusciferae is new latin for ‘cross-bearing’).

When roasted they only need a little olive oil and some salt for seasoning, that’s all I use most times. Last week I saw a recipe from Melissa Clark for Roasted Cauliflower With Pancetta, Olives and Crisp Parmesan in the NY Times cooking section. I happened to have a head of cauliflower in the crisper drawer that needed using, and most of the other ingredients were pantry staples.

This was a big hit, served with a swordfish steak cooked sous vide (I will be posting that recipe soon). This dish could easily be an entire meal with a salad on the side. The combination of bacon, cauliflower, olives and parmesan was a winner. You could adapt this recipe for Brussels sprouts or cabbage if that’s what you have on hand. The olives wouldn’t stand out color wise, but the flavor would still be there. Let me know if you try it.

Cauliflower is such an adaptable vegetable and it’s featured in so many recipes. Who would have ever thought of cauliflower rice or cauliflower pizza ten years ago? My grandmother’s favorite way of serving cauliflower was creamed cauliflower with a cheese sauce. That classic dish is still on many holiday menus as it can be made ahead and baked at the last minute. You could combine some of the same flavors of smoked pork (bacon, prosciutto or pancetta) and parmesan into a baked cauliflower dish with pasta I recently read on, Rigatoni with Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Parmesan Crust. As I said, cauliflower is a blank canvas for inventiveness.

Getting back to the recipe…

Melissa Clark’s recipe called for using a package of finely diced pancetta, not something I had on hand and I didn’t want to run to the store for a single ingredient. I did have a package of thick sliced smoked bacon which I diced and precooked to crispy deliciousness. If you have pancetta or even prosciutto available by all means use them.

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan


  • 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-sized florets
  • 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup of green olives, crushed, pitted and chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely grated or minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 4 ounces bacon, cut into 1/8 inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of shredded (not ground) parmesan
  • Chopped parsley or other small greens for garnish (I had part of a package of micro greens)


  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Place cauliflower on a rimmed backing sheet and toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Roast for 15 minutes.
  2. While the cauliflower is roasting, pan fry the bacon until almost crisp and drain it on a paper towel.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olives, garlic, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt (I didn’t use too much salt because the bacon was salty). Drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking to combine.
  4. After the cauliflower had roasted for 15 minutes, remove it from the oven. Add the bacon and cumin seeds to the pan and gently mix to combine. Sprinkle the parmesan on top. Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and browning on the edges, and the parmesan is crisp.
  5. Spoon the contents of the sheet pan into a warmed serving dish and spoon the olive dressing over the top, tossing gently to combine. Add more salt, red pepper flakes or lemon juice as needed.
  6. Scatter the parsley or herbs on top.


Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

In My Garden – September 2020

I haven’t been spending any more than essential time in the garden so far this month. The smoke from the fires in the eastern part of the county have drifted over the coast. It looks like fog (but isn’t) and the skies are orange, more like Venus than here on earth. The air isn’t healthy to breathe.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor, text that says 'Smoky skies hang over the Mendocino Coast... POINT CABRILL LIGHT STATION'

It was so dark yesterday that we had to put the lights on in the house, I thought it was still night at 7 am when I woke. Our dogs are going a little crazy (you know how active Aussies need to be) because we won’t let them out to play. White ash covers our cars and the decks.

Casey and Quinn

Won’t you let us out to play?

I’ve been keeping the bird feeders and bath full so that any fleeing birds can find shelter, food and water. Birds aren’t my only visitors. Our native grey squirrel, the reddish Douglas squirrel, and chipmunks all enjoy the sunflower seeds.



The hotels and inns on the coast are full of evacuees fleeing the flames. We desperately need early winter rains. Fire season has at least another six weeks to go.

So, what’s happening in the garden? Remember last month when I put in a very late row of bush beans and zucchini? Well, this morning I saw the first zucchini flowers.

August planted zucchini

August planted zucchini

The first picture was the bed in August, the second a few days ago in September (with Casey observing). So far they are doing well. We may actually have beans and zucchini in October.

I planted lettuce, spinach and cilantro in two of the raised beds covered in fabric to cool them and protect them from the sun. They are doing well and I should soon be able to harvest the greens.

I have planted sprouting broccoli in one raised bed.

Sprouting broccoli

Sprouting broccoli

The flower beds are reflecting the impending change of the seasons.

And the pollinator garden has…well, lots of pollinators.

Pollinator garden visitor

Pollinator garden visitor

And that’s certainly not all that’s going on in the garden. It’s a constantly changing environment. Sometimes I just sit and watch and listen. Hummingbirds arguing for territory, birds scratching and singing, bees buzzing, butterflies flitting…it’s a very busy place. But it calms me in these days of hectic news. The bees don’t bother the hummingbirds on the same flower even though they are different. My prayer is that we realize we are still part of the same world and honor each other.

December – Preserved Kumquats

December – Preserved Kumquats

Just in time for the holidays, a gift which is not only delicious but also easy to make and beautiful. The jewel tones of the kumquats are perfect for the holidays.


Kumquats are a variety of citrus, the rind is the sweet part and the bitter the middle. The reverse of other citrus fruits. The kumquats are small, only about an inch or less in length. My mother would preserve them each year (she lived in Florida where they were common) but I haven’t seen them in the markets very often. So I jumped at the chance to recreate her recipe. They were delicious served beside smoked chicken or turkey, a sweet counter to the smokiness. But I think they would be equally delicious served for dessert with a square of chocolate.

I couldn’t find her recipe in my files but know it was very simple. A search on the web came up with on published in the New York Times some time ago…Evelyn Patout’s Preserved Kumquats. It sounded exactly like my memory of my mother’s recipe, plus it was simple and quick. It only requires about 20 minutes of your time, plus 4 days sitting in the simple syrup.

Preserved Kumquats


  • 1 quart of kumquats
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of light corn syrup


  1. Wash and scrub the kumquats thoroughly. Prick each one several times with a large needle or poultry pin (I used a crab picker). Put them in a large saucepan, add water to cover, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain.
  2. Combine the sugar with 3 cups of water in the saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Add the kumquots and bring back to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover the saucepan, and set aside till the next day.
  3. The next morning add 1/2 cup of corn syrup to the saucepan, bring back to the boil, then remove from the heat, cover, and let stand overnight again.
  4. Repeat the process in number 3 twice more.
  5. On the fourth day, after the kumquats have  brought to the boil, spoon them into hot, sterilized, Mason-type jars. Pour the hot syrup to within 1/4 inch of the top and seal. Refrigerate until ready to give, or you can seal in a canner (I would boil 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your jars).
In My Kitchen – November 2018

In My Kitchen – November 2018

November In My Kitchen is really about the October events. And truthfully, there isn’t much to tell. The next post in November (which will be posted in early December) will be an entirely different story. October was very quiet in the kitchen because most of the work and fun has been going on in the garden. To get an update you can click on this link, In My Garden – November 2018.

In My Kitchen is a collected series of posts (sometimes called IMK for short) hosted by Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings. Click on this link and you will be able to read other posts about fascinating things and wonderful ingredients in kitchens all around the world. It is especially fun to read about kitchens in your opposite hemisphere. For me in Northern California that would be the Southern Hemisphere, where spring is just starting.

But there are a few new things in my kitchen.

I purchased a large bag of porcini mushrooms while we were in Italy in September.

Dried Porcini Mushrooms

I was looking forward to making something with them, they are terribly expensive here in the states. November is the beginning of the fresh mushroom season (it’s a big deal up here on the coast). Fresh mushrooms of infinite varieties are stocked in the local grocery stores and even at roadside stands.

Deborah Madison in her new book, In My Kitchen, had a recipe for dried porcini, fresh mushrooms, and tomatoes that looked delicious. It was a perfect opportunity to sample the dried mushrooms.

In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison

It would be a wonderful vegetarian main dish served over polenta. We served it as a low carb (we did just get back from Italy after all) side with a few slices of steak. I will post the recipe in few days.

Porcini and Stewed Tomatoes

New In my kitchen is this antique Bakelite tomato knife. It was a gift from my friend Dianne, who is an avid thrift store and antique store shopper. Bakelite was the first plastic made from synthetic components by an American chemist in Yonkers NY in 1907. This one has a wonderful retro look.

The first cranberries are appearing in the markets and I made this apple-cranberry sauce to take to dinner at a friend’s house. He was making pork roast and asked us to bring the apple sauce. I couldn’t resist making something more seasonal.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

Lastly, new in my kitchen is the makings of Michael Chiarello’s fennel spice rub. It’s a favorite in our household; a mixture of toasted fennel, cardamon, white peppercorns and salt. I usually add some cumin seeds because I love them so much. I often give it in small jars as a present during the holidays.

Fennel Spice Rub

Happy Holidays everyone!

In My Kitchen
Sherry’s Pickings