Friday, March 10, 2017

Seeds Ordered!

Time almost got away from me, but I managed to order seeds at the last minute. I love Fedco's cover this year featuring a female gardening superhero. Little did I know much this would mean when it arrived in December given all the recent events. There was even a coloring contest with cash prizes (it ended last week). No digital images were accepted--all original entries had to be mailed directly to Fedco in Maine!

I also enjoy reading the list of new varieties; each with a one-liner description like "Kaori green shiso: a thrilla of a perilla!" or "Latte hybrid sweet corn: What do coffee and corn have in common?" followed by "Cappuccino hybrid sweet corn: We have no idea!" I didn't let them distract me from my order which is mostly fall and winter crops--two types of kale plus 'Jack Be Little' pumpkins and 'Autumn Wings' gourds. Jack Be Little are so easy to grow with so many fruit on the vine. I've not grown the gourds before but hoping they will be as easy as the mini pumpkins. Plus, I'm a sucker for these at the pumpkin patch.

And then there's my other go-to seed catalog--Kitazawa specializing in mostly Asian seed varieties. I decided to skip the Odoriko tomatoes this year since I am promised a round of starts from some old seed. Sow what you have first before buying more! And with my limited space, I couldn't justify a fifth tomato variety. I did opt for the Kurume Long eggplant in addition to the Money Maker I usually buy. Let's see how it compares as Money Maker has never let me down. I'm hoping the shishito peppers are better this year. I was surprised that they did so poorly, but maybe our mild summer had something to do with it. I threw in Purple Vienna kohlrabi and Armenian striped cucumber as well.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


As the Columbia City Farmers' Market was wrapping up this season, I saw many stands selling quince. One of my favorite vendors, Let Us Farm (get it--Let us? Lettuce?), had some wonderfully voluptuous fruits on display. I was remembering my days as a gardener at Filoli in Woodside, Ca where they have a very large shrub. Nostalgia with these golden yellow fruits in front of me, I couldn't pass them up.

Quince are covered in fuzz which must be washed off to prepare for cooking. The skin is much more waxy than their pear and apple relatives making them ideal for adding pectin to jams and jellies. There are recipes out there that suggest adding quince to applesauce. The word marmalade was originally from quince jam, as the Portuguese refer to this fruit a marmelo.

A little more history, according to Lynn Rosetta Casper's The Spendid Table, it may have been quince and not an apple that was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. And it may have been the start of the Trojan War when Helen of Troy bribed Paris to give Aphrodite a quince for the prize in a beauty contest.

I found a recipe for quince membrillo which is essentially a paste. To cook the quince, I peeled and cored them, placing the pieces in a cheesecloth. I then diced the fruit, put everything in a large saucepan with a cup of sugar and just enough water to cover everything. I brought it up to a simmer on low heat and cooked it until everything was soft (1-2 hours).

I discarded the cheesecoth and pureed everything in the food processor. I took the mixture and spread it in a small bread pan then stuck it in the oven at 175 for 15 hours. This can be done over a couple of days.

I removed the golden paste from the pan, sliced it into small pieces and served with water crackers and manchego cheese. The taste is more floral and fruity; with hints of citron in the background.

Just add friends and enjoy!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Apple Socks

It's true what they say about seeing more of your neighbors in summertime. We're out in our gardens, weeding, setting out sprinklers, adjusting tomatoes on their trellises; people walking by say hello and may ask "What is that plant? The bees are loving it." And I tell them, "It's honeywort--super easy to grow. Help yourself to seed."

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to bite the bullet and order an entire box of footies. An already tedious task of wrapping each apple, it was worth saving some time and headache cutting up several pairs of pantyhose to have pre-made "socks." I couldn't procrastinate any longer--there were several apples that had frass at the blossom end and along their sides--evidence that coddling moth had already done its damage. I brought out my box of footies and got to work. As I diligently slipped a sock around each apple, trying not to knock them off the tree, people walked by. I'd look up and say hello, but realized they avoided eye contact with me and didn't respond. Others quicken their step which made me think.

Huh...this is odd. No one will talk to me. Why is that? Could it be they think what I'm doing is crazy?

Well, no matter. After losing a majority of my apples over various seasons, it's worth spending a couple of summer evenings to prevent those moths from tunneling through my fruit. The task slows me down, allowing me to appreciate the late setting July sun as I think about the crisp delicious Honeycrisp and Nittany apples to come this fall.


Sunday, July 10, 2016


My tree has three ripe figs--quite early for this time of year. As tomatoes have stalled with the normal cool of Pacific Northwest summers, I was surprised to see a ripe fig just a few weeks ago. I wanted to harvest it earlier, but hesitated as the dogwood next to it housed a family of robins. I didn't want to disturb them and they flew the nest a couple of weeks ago and hopefully survived.

The tree is a suckering mess after a hard pruning last fall. I'm selecting new leaders and removing ones I had saved to reduce the aesthetic shock of the heading cuts. Though it looks harsh, the hard pruning must be done every so often to keep the tree in check within the tight space next to the house.

But back to those three figs. They were amazing! I tasted the most ripe of the three first and it was almost approaching dried-fig status. I moved on to the next one and it was perfectly sweet with a light pink color inside. The third, though small in size, was just has good.

Like honey

Earlier today I was discussing with friends how we're all in the midst of the summer frenzy; cramming in every single activity before the weather turns. Little did I know I'd be enjoying the nod to fall this soon--figs to me signify the end of summer. Thank goodness we still have some time for the weather to creep back above 70 degrees, enjoy our flip flops and watch (or hope and pray!) our tomatoes ripen in the coming weeks.

This fig though on the top rung did not lose its balance

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Losing Track

I've let six months go by without posting a single entry. I was completely consumed by school for 10 weeks last fall where in every spare moment, I was studying. The holidays came and went. The seed catalogs filled my mailbox making me pause and realize "I better get my orders in!" My seeds are now on their way to growing into starts that will be ready to plant in a couple of months.

I also managed to make it to Seattle Tilth's early spring plant sale a couple of weeks ago held at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. I bought two blueberry shrubs and a persimmon tree to replace the one I lost two summers back. A wonderfully sunny day signaling spring has arrived!

I am looking forward to trying a few favorites from last year: Espresso Bicolor corn, Honeydrop cherry tomato and my favorite pink variety 'Odoriko' which is from the Japanese seed company Kitazawa.

Sunny days like today can fool us into thinking winter is over, but we're not out of the woods yet. According to Dave's Garden, April 6th is when we should expect out last frost date. You can search based on your zip code here.

This weekend, I'll be clearing out weeds and figuring out where to plant the first fava beans and snap peas. I have a couple of  plants to rearrange as well to make sure my blueberries are easy to water this summer.

In the meantime, I'll reflect on the great harvest we had at the end of last season.

So many good things to look forward to in 2016! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Baby Fruit

I love a good challenge. A gardener friend of mine tried growing corn awhile back (she wasn't successful) and ever since I wanted to give it a try. I looked at my go-to source for cooler growing, short season varieties: Fedco. I grew Espresso Bi-Color. I was super excited to have two whole ears! And this was a decent season for my first attempt given how warm it was.
I also grew Charentais melons again. This time the Alvaro type from Fedco. Considered one of the "sure bets" for short growing seasons, I thought why not? I had several promising fruits. I'm not sure I started them early enough or have them in the hottest spot possible to ensure a decent crop. But these babies are the best I've done yet. Not to be discouraged I'm willing to try again next year. It will be so rewarding once I get it right!

Melon Baby!

Next post will be the start of the harvest and summer review as I start to put the garden to rest.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Annual Green Tomato Pie

The chilly fall air is already here. With that first sign, I knew it was time to to cut my losses with my Odoriko tomatoes. The plants were healthy and huge and the fruits looked promising. But I tried a new place to grow them that didn't take full advantage of the afternoon sun. Disappointing given the amazingly warm summer we've had.

So turning my lemons into lemonade, I made pie. When I first looked for a recipe I expected a savory pie; a kind of twist on fried green tomatoes. But when green tomatoes are super green and haven't even thought about ripening, they are crunchy and tart. I dare you to bite into one! The recipes were not far off from a regular apple pie. I like to add lemon juice and zest, cinnamon, clove, cardamom and a dash of ginger powder. I use a "1, 2, 3" pie dough using all butter, no shortening. I also use an egg wash sprinkled with lime sugar.

I shared it with coworkers who were willing to try it and pleasantly surprised. It was fun to watch their reactions. I almost didn't want to tell them what the filling was because of the expectation of how it would taste.

Half eaten in the lunchroom
Until next year and another green tomato pie...