Interested in all things related to food is it any wonder that I have been known to forage for wild edibles in the local hills as well as forage for more domesticated delectables at farmer's markets.
This spring I began to think and dream about creating my own edible garden space. My idea of an edible garden is to create something that is beautiful and useful. I want a garden to be pretty. I do not like the idea of vegetables lined up like soldiers in a row.
I am not using manure. I have had to behave like a Philadelphia Lawyer - to borrow a phrase from my dear mother - in order to persuade Dan - so far - not to manure the garden. I told him today that I avoid food that is raised in CAFO's and why would I want to use the left-over refuse from a CAFO to grow my veg? I would like to create a more closed system where I can actually build the soil without relying on a bag of manure. So far I think he is either tolerating my ideas, humoring me, or perhaps even supporting me. :-)
In this yard fertility will be the key. When we moved in almost all of the existing plants were dead and the earth barren and ridden with weeds. The soil is serpentine/adobe soil which is notoriously low in nutrients.
What I am aspiring to achieve in this first year - this first endeavor in the soil - is to create little islands of fertility. I do not want to be overly enthusiastic or overly ambitious this first year. I want to begin by building the soil. A tree service dropped off at least two truck loads of tree trimmings within the last 12 months and now the earth is no longer barren but covered with mulch. We both pulled out the weeds.
This week I began building little islands of fertility. I amended the soil in several sunny locations with organic material and worm castings and planted two hills of winter squash. One is a beautiful warty French heirloom. The other is a really old Japanese variety. Squash is a notorious heavy feeder and requires rich soil and nutrients galore. Perhaps I have already been overly ambitious? - But, the seeds are snugged into two adorable cages in the ground for better or for worse. Yes, we have gophers - hence the cages.
Saturday morning when Dan had the brilliant idea to go to one of my favorite nurseries and peruse the aisles for plants I needed little persuasion. He needed to go to an electronics store and the nursery was not far away. What a great idea. However, this late in the season the nursery had low inventory. Most of the plants that I wanted were unavailable. I don't mind waiting. It will allow me ample time to plan and ponder on the land here and how best to re-habilitate it one step at a time.
In the end I picked out sets of green bunching onions, and shallots, basil, an heirloom cherry tomato, a gypsy pepper that is long thin and reputed to be very sweet, marjoram and several packets of seeds.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Inspired by warmer weather - I assembled the ingredients to begin my first jar of dill pickles for the year. Though Carrisa and I made pickles together back in the summer of 2008 I decided to put together a new recipe.
I was fortunate that when I got the sudden urge to make a jar of pickles this morning that neighbor Suzanne had just received a bunch of fresh dill in her CSA box. We both made pickles today.
I put 4 sprigs of dill, garlic and peppercorns in the bottom of a sterile quart-size mason jar. Then I trimmed the cucumber tips, sliced the cucumbers in half and packed them into the jar along with the rest of the dill and some fresh grape leaves.
I remember reading somewhere that grape leaves help retain the crisp texture that is so favored in dill pickles. Fermenting dill pickles at a slightly cooler temperature is also helpful. My house stays fairly cool, even with the weather being extra warm this week, so that will be in my favor.
Once the jar was packed I poured a salt brine of 1 1/2 c. water to 2 T. sea salt and which included 1/4 t. of a vegetable starter over the cucumbers until they were completely covered, inserted a small glass jar (left-over from caviar) into the mouth of the mason jar to keep the pickles from floating to the surface, and screwed the sterile lid on. The pickles will sit on the cupboard for about 3 days and then they will go into the fridge.
I can't wait to see how they turn out.