Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lazy locavores?

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
Trevor Paque at work in San Francisco in a garden his company planted in a client’s backyard.

A Locally Grown Diet With Fuss but No Muss

Published: July 22, 2008 in The New York Times

Eating locally raised food is a growing trend. But who has time to get to the farmer’s market, let alone plant a garden?

That is where Trevor Paque comes in. For a fee, Mr. Paque, who lives in San Francisco, will build an organic garden in your backyard, weed it weekly and even harvest the bounty, gently placing a box of vegetables on the back porch when he leaves.

Call them the lazy locavores — city dwellers who insist on eating food grown close to home but have no inclination to get their hands dirty. Mr. Paque is typical of a new breed of business owner serving their needs.

read more

Friday, July 18, 2008

Beautiful Bounty

I am loving my tomatoes this year. I think the addition of welded concrete reinforcement wire cages has not only successfully staked the plants but made the fruit less accessible to curious birds that were sampling my crop last year. I had seen this staking method used in the community garden and as far as I am concerned this is the only way to go for supporting indeterminate tomato varieties.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ratatouille, eat it up yum. . .

Last year I fell in love with ratatouille when I had an abundance of zucchini and basil. I wound up purchasing eggplant at the grocery store and using canned tomatoes to round out this rustic dish that originated in France.

This year I got the zucchini started late and feared I'd need to supplement my recipe with store bought ingredients again seeing that the eggplant had rapidly produced a bumper crop.

I was thrilled then when a friend, who I offered extra eggplant to, swapped me for two huge zucchini she'd grown in her backyard.

This year the tomatoes are doing so great I was able to skip the canned but sadly had to purchase the fresh basil as the only variety I am currently growing is a lemon flavored that didn't seem appropriate for the dish.

Ratatouille was originally a common dish, prepared in the summer with fresh summer vegetables. I consulted my faithful red plaid Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book for some guidelines and a jumping-off point then got to work. First, I got some onion and garlic going in some olive oil while I pulsed the tomatoes in the food processor to get them a little saucy yet still chunky. Next I added the tomatoes and peeled and cubed eggplant and zucchini that I had briefly steamed in the microwave to the pan. While it simmered I added some roughly chopped basil, salt and pepper, a little Italian seasoning and a splash of red wine. After the flavors melded awhile I poured it over a pot of steaming fusilli and finished it off by stirring in a large portion of Trader Joe's four cheese blend which includes shredded Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Provolone.

Served over pasta this is a hearty and delicious meatless meal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I think it's ready!

Sunday, July 13

Look at the size of this baby!

Lip smacking good!

Garden Photos/Saturday, July 14

West facing...eggplant, lemon cucumber and watermelon (vine is shown creeping along the foreground).

Garden Photos/Saturday, July 14

East-facing view...tomatoes. peppers, zucchini, Echinacea, etc...

Herb Bed

This is an informal herb patch I'm working on. So far there's Rosemary, Greek Oregano, Lemon Basil and Marjoram. Last week we enjoyed a potent batch of Lemon Basil Pesto with linguine.

Against the fence are three Strawberry Blonde sunflowers described on the package as "a beautiful soft lemon yellow brushed with rose-pink." I am eagerly awaiting blooms. Pink sunflowers?? Yes, please!

In front of the sunflowers is a compost experiment gone astray. Too many cantaloupe seeds wound up in the bin and I have a tendency to under-"cook" my compost. Given more time, wouldn't these seeds eventually decompose? I have this problem with tomato seeds as well.

Sunflower Patch

Here's a little sunny corner of the backyard I like to call the Sunflower Patch. There are a few more Strawberry Blondes here and a variety called Mini Sun Hybrid. The package says they grow to a height of only sixteen inches. I hate when they get so tall they flop over. The Blonde's are expected to be six feet at maturity.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Garden Update/Eggplant Recipe

While I don't have any pictures to prove it, there's been plenty of gardening going on here. This year my raised beds contain:

  • five types of tomatoes,
  • a volunteer cantaloupe,
  • four types of peppers -- two bells and two spicy
  • two types of eggplant
  • a lemon cucumber, and
  • a watermelon vine.
In addition I have two types of zucchini in my half whiskey barrel and two more spicy peppers and a bush type tomato in large pots. A small square-shaped plot is housing a few herbs as well.

Everything is looking great with plenty of fruit and blossoms. A few tomatoes are a few days away from being ripe enough to pick and tonight I plucked two Satin Beauty eggplants that truly lived up to their names.

Their skins were beautifully dark and glossy. Eager to find a different way to eat them than parmigiana style, I did a search at allrecipes.com and found one called Eggplant Croquettes. Basically they were eggplant and cheese patties seasoned with garlic, onion, fresh parsley and bound together with egg and bread crumbs. They were almost like a veggie burger. I tweaked the recipe a bit using instead of the cheddar called for, a four-cheese Italian blend of shredded Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Provolone that I bought at Trader Joe's. This is a yummy blend that I always use in my hot artichoke dip. I also used fresh flat leaf Italian parsley I had growing instead of dried and olive oil for frying instead of plain vegetable oil. They were a nice alternative to the usual way I serve eggplant although I did serve them with a tiny bit of tomato sauce for a little added flavor.

I hope to get some pictures of everything growing soon.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Winter Garden

How exciting to begin 2008's garden in January. Long a dream, now a reality.

On Friday, I found myself poking around at OSH to fill up some rare free time. I picked up several seed packets, three bags of compost and a six-pack of broccoli -- Cape Queen F-1 Hybrid variety. It was the last one there and aside from a couple of yellowing leaves here and there the starts looked healthy.

After a solid week of rain, Saturday saw a break in the clouds and I put them in. Due to some uneven ground, there are large puddles of standing water surrounding the raised beds in areas which required a few strategically placed wooden boards in order to gain access.

After sprinkling compost and digging it in a bit I also planted several seed varieties: "German Giant" radish, "Salad Bowl" lettuce, "Garden Babies Butterhead" container lettuce and "Catalina" baby leaf lettuce. The lettuces went into my half wine barrel planter and a low lying bowl planter.

As I worked the local scrub jays squawked, no doubt in excitement. Somehow they knew my actions meant fresh seeds for pecking at a later time. I am anxious to see what actually sprouts of course. I'm hoping for several successive plantings.

A few other seed packs I brought home but have yet to plant are: "Harmony Hybrid" spinach which appears to have more crinkled leaves than the Catalina, chives and Slow-Bolt Cilantro which can be planted as early as February according to the package notes.

Fingers-crossed, I hope there will be something positive to post in 7 to 14 days.