Monday, August 21, 2017

Hot roots



I grew horseradish for the first time, this year. It arrived from Johnny's Seeds (in the company of several seed packets whose contents failed to germinate altogether - I don't think it was Johnny's fault, but it was frustrating) in March. I planted it in long holes, dug at an angle. It took months to show signs of life.


But all five roots sprouted, and there they are, looking uncannily like yellow dock (Rumex crispus). I think we will be able to harvest some, conservatively, late in the year. Or perhaps I should save them, for next early spring, which is when the fat, rude rude roots start showing up in local stores for Passover. I can't help blushing when I pick one up (each one has two balls, plus, er...you you know). You harvest them by cutting of the large root and saving the side roots for replanting. Left too long they become gnarly and fibrous. All this is theoretical knowledge, for me, clearly.

Freshly grated horseradish is one of our favourite condiments, eaten raw, its sting going straight up the nose, rather than down the throat.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

August in bloom


A quick peak at what the garden is doing. In the potted section, one of the best things right now, and for weeks past, has been the pineapple lilies. I have never grown Eucomis, before. My mom has them in her Constantia garden and they are native to the grasslands of South Africa's summer rainfall regions. This is Eucomis autumnalis, and it has been in bloom for eight weeks.


Much slower to begin blooming, which is good, because its season will be longer, is Eucomis 'Leia.' I will have to lift the bulbs for winter and store them in the longsuffering fridge (the Frenchman never knows what is going to attack him when he opens its door).


These are also a happy surprise. I have never grown dahlias before, either. I had no idea what to expect and thought they would bloom only late in the season, but this is 'Nuit d 'été' and it has been flowering since early June. The plants dislike very hot weather and the blooms shrivel in response, but we have been having a really mild August and they are thriving again. Thirsty plants. I water daily.

The pineapple lilies and dahlias above came from Brent and Becky's, ordered in February when one is grasping at horticultural straws and prone to shopper's remorse. But both are so healthy and long-blooming that I will get more, next year.


These little dahlias came from Lowe's. I ignore them in the side beds at the back of the garden and they keep on flowering. In general I cannot recommend bulbs from the giant emporium - they are mostly in terrible shape and stored for weeks in hot conditions so that they either wither or sprout and are not viable when you plant them. The dahlias made it.


The heuchera that keeps making more. I have lost track of its offspring. Low maintenance and drought tolerant and flowering late in the growing year,  I find it prefers being dry and squeezed in its pots. This plant (Heuchera villosa) and its children have moved all over New York with us.


The curry leaf trees that overwintered unhappily indoors are thriving, outside.


Inside their bird netting the figs are ripening, at last.


And there is a precious collection of makrut (Citrus hystrix) fruit. I hope they ripen, but it will be indoors, if they do. The skin is intensely aromatic. One tree is flowering and fruiting, while the larger one is not. It's odd. I use the leaves for drinks and cooking.

In wild foods cookbook news: I have reached the final lap: four weeks until deadline. I am now on the photo phase (choosing, editing). The manuscript itself stands at 142,000 words and change. There are still some more recipes to add, test and shoot. Today's testing includes a raised pie with elderberries and a spiced pawpaw bread.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The good things


This is a new cocktail I shook up with a fermented elderberry syrup (sweet, sour, lightly alcoholic), rum and early summer's honeysuckle cordial. It's not as sweet as it sounds. And elderberries are very interesting.

Name suggestions?

The glass is resting on my friend Stephen Orr's really good and very beautiful book, The New American Herbal (no the drink did not sweat on the book). I love dipping into it when I take a break from my own plants.

The parts of the weekend you do not see are the meltdown, the hair pulling and the gnashing of teeth. I was a little overwhelmed by the work still to do on my book, and then a serious camera glitch pushed me right over the edge.

The Frenchman weathered it, somehow. He also quietly ensured that within 24 hours a brand new camera was not only bought but delivered to the front door (the 21st century is magical in this way). Then he did the laundry, put it away, made the bed, bought two nights of dinners and cleaned the kitchen.

Now that. Is a husband. I feel quite small.

After the meltdown I made black cherry ketchup, elderberry soup and wrote 6,000 words.

Then we ate Trader Joe's pizza, and watched possums.




Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sit down. It's supper time.


July has ended.

Days are full. Very. Very full.

Evening is a pause. Stop. Breathe. Sip. Talk. Watch for possums (we have a baby again - tonight, after inspecting the garden, it walked on the wires, high above the back of the garden, with great confidence).

And now it is August. Five weeks until I meet a book deadline. With life insisting on happening, inbetween.

But we will always have supper.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Backlit Saucisson



Sorry, folks, this is a (not very) secret message. Regular programming will resume shortly.

(And sometimes a saucisson is just a saucisson. No bad puns, here)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The monarchs are here!


I walked into the garden a few days ago and saw...monarchs on the milkweed! Plant it and they will come. This is very gratifying.

The species above is Asclepias incarnata - swamp milkweed. I planted it first in Harlem and it moved with us. It is growing in-ground and is much less vigorous than Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed, the one I also eat), and I recently planted another in a large pot. This is an easier milkweed to control, if you are a neat gardener.


This smaller butterfly is on the common milkweed, which was planted late in spring 2016 and which came back very strongly this year. And not exactly where I was expecting it, either. If you have spreading anxiety in a very orderly garden, I recommend using a planting barrier under ground as a medium term control. I am not sure how it would work, long term. The runners are vigorous and shoots will appear many feet from the parent plant. Ideally, plant it in a wilder section or in a meadow. The pollinators - many kinds - will love you. Or, my top soapbox suggestion: Grow it as a farm crop. Because you can eat the shoots, young stems, tender leaves, buds, flowers and pods.

Or plant a different milkweed.


And this one is on the common milkweed pods. I may squeal with excitement if I ever see a caterpillar or even better, a jewel-like and green cocoon.


They also stopped on the Ligularia. (The milkweed is where they lay their eggs.)


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It's been ten years...


Early evening. One of my favorite times of day.

Two anniversaries: I started writing this blog in 2007. It is ten years old. In Internet terms that is about 1,000! It grew from my first not very good photos, taken with a series of small, much loved Canon point and shoots. Hi tech, in those days. But these pocket sized creatures led to an almost obsessive interest in digital documentation and to a level of confidence I had never felt until then. The cameras were somehow a screen and filter, letting me move through the world without worrying as much about what it thought of me. I created the blog in a year that had begun very badly for me, where I was so despondent that I was prescribed anti depressants by a shrink who should have known better (he said he would not treat me if I was not on them. I never went back and ditched the pills after four weeks - I'm not saying they are not important for some people, but they were not what I needed, then. I needed someone to listen). A few weeks later I began to write.

My interest in photography led, a couple of months after I began blogging, to the Frenchman, who was waiting and waving at me from the west coast of this huge continent, in Vancouver, BC. Our July emails set off an electrical storm that culminated in his touchdown at Newark Liberty International that September. Four months later we were married.

I know. It's an old story. But I like telling it.

This blog, and its offshoots, on Facebook and now evolving on Instagram, led to new friendships, locally and across the globe, and these have enriched my life in innumerable ways, personally and professionally. My work changed, my skills improved, I was and remain challenged and inspired by what comes to me via 66 Square Feet.

Happy birthday, blog. You saved me.


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