Saturday, August 26, 2017

The red and black ones


Almost every morning, when I sneak into the garden with my coffee before sitting down to work, a monarch greets me. The Joe Pye weed offers plenty of nectar. And at six feet tall is bordering on unruly. I need a meadow.


They visit the common milkweed in the vegetable plot, and seem very restless, rarely settling for long.


And yes, the distinctive milkweed bugs did arrive. I don't who told them there was milkweed, here. Oncopeltus fasciatus, apparently harmless, so I leave them be. This one is sitting on the pods of Asclepias incarnata, growing in a pot.

In September I will be cutting the common milkweed back, very carefully. Those stems also rose to five and six feet, and happen to be planted over the row of diminutive saffron crocus, whose flowers should be emerging in late autumn. I am not sure if being shaded by the milkweed all summer (when the saffron is dormant) will have hurt, or not. Last year they produced enough saffron for one pot of bouillabaisse, which I thought was quite exciting.

I might order more.

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.


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