Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Thursday morning walk-around.

I love the first few minutes in my garden, because that's when I do the walk-around, looking for new blooms, new bugs, new weeds, and new chores. (It's that last task that typically sends me back inside for ice tea).

During Thursday's walk-around, I hit the jackpot. First, I found a robin's egg, a little cracked but still whole. Is any color more beautiful than robin egg blue?

Next, I decided to harvest my first Swiss chard. It's been about six weeks since I planted the chard, and it's doing well, both in pots and in my herb bed. Where does it grow best? Both places have their advantages. The in-ground plants are bigger, but the potted plants sit close to my patio furniture, so I can notice the remarkable way chard grows when I'm having a cocktail. (Like lettuce, the small, new leaves unfurl from the center of the plant.)

The next day, I used the chard for dinner, working off a recipe in Deborah Madison's fabulous book, Local Flavors: chard with red beans, cilantro and feta cheese. The combination of fresh thyme (so Protestant) and cilantro (so ethnic) is lovely. I never would have thought to combine the two.

I know this post is getting long-winded, but here's the recipe:

1 can unsalted red kidney beans from Whole Foods, undrained
1 small white onion, diced
1 bunch of greens
1 cup of chopped cilanto
lots of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
sea salt
3 or 4 ounces of feta cheese
2 T olive oil

Simmer beans with half the cilantro, thyme, sea salt to taste, and the bay leaves.

Clean, cut off the stems, and chop the chard. Toss it into boiling water for about five minutes. Drain and set aside.

Saute onions in olive oil. Strip the thyme off a few more stems and add it to onions. When onions are soft, deglaze the pan with a little vinegar (not too much!).

Add the beans, simmer a little, and toss in the greens. You might need to add a little stock or water to make more liquid.

Garnish with rest of the cilantro and cheese. Serve over rice.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Doing the sod stomp.

Before I headed to Maryland to take care of my mom, tornadoes and record rainfalls tore up Tennessee. When the sun finally came out, I decided to stomp around in the mud and transplant the sod I had dug up before building my lasagna bed.

Tony found my sod stomp endlessly amusing, so instead of helping, he snapped these photos. Don’t you love how I’ve managed to pull together another stunning outfit?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The color purple.

My love affair with purple plants started at age six or seven, when I toted home my first six-pack of deep purple pansies from the grocery store. I loved how the leaves looked like velvet.

In Los Angeles, where gardening is fun because you can dig and weed and not sweat, purple was my go-to color. Even now, 20 years later, I can close my eyes and remember the lavender that grew waist high on the side of Peg and Kenny’s house in Venice. It is a beautiful memory.

For the first few years in Memphis, I tried to grow lavender, with little success. Then I discovered Baptisia australis at a Lichterman Center plant sale. The plant is a great Midsouth substitute for lavender. It's drought tolerate, not picky about soil, and I've never seen a bug that liked it. Plus, it's purple.

Commonly called wild False Indigo, the flowers remind me of sweet peas. It has a long and interesting history as it's been cultivated since the early 1700's. Native Americans used Baptisia for dye and to treat tooth aches. Me, I like to look at how it twists and turns, seeking out the sun - a tough job in a yard like mine that is so heavily guarded by pin oaks.

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's all about the salad.

These photos can be either inspiring or discouraging, depending on whether you’ve planted your vegetables yet.

If you’ve got a few plants in pots, then rejoice! The lettuce in the colander is my first harvest. I planted several Black Seeded Simpson lettuces about a month ago, and the salads have been wonderful. It’s a small but significant start, especially for a procrastinator like me.

The other photo is of the beautiful veggies from my CSA share for helping with Downing Hollow Farm’s city garden: micro greens, spring lettuce, radishes, assorted herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint), spring onions, carrots, tomatoes, and shitake mushrooms. I also got six farm fresh eggs!

I like to look at this photo as my goal for next summer. Then again, maybe there’s even bigger start-ups in my future. Here’s a great story from Victoria, who understands that a cottage industry in my backyard is my ultimate retirement job.