Friday, July 3, 2015

Apartment needed

A June supper

By now I have flower-bombed social media with this message and finally it comes to rest here:

SOS. Help needed:

The Frenchman and I have just learned that our landlord is not renewing the lease on our Harlem apartment. It expires at the end of August. He says he will be doing renovations in our apartment which will also involve ripping up part of the terrace.

While this apartment and location have come with problems, there are many things we like (space, tall ceilings, terrace), and I am still stunned. We made it a home. The garden is looking very beautiful right now, lush, healthy and happy. I love sitting out there, and the thought of destroying it all at its peak is numbing.

To add to the bad timing,  I had just  booked a late August, early September trip to South Africa - to see my not-very-well parents, in the 80's. We had been planning this for a while. The Frenchman's ticket was to have been bought today. I have just booked and paid for a visit to the wonderful spring flowers on the West Coast of the country. That trip is probably toast.

Young sparrow

So. Dear New York City Universe, with matter-of-fact New York directness:

We are looking for a 1 bedroom apartment with a garden or terrace or roof deck (outdoor space is essential), rent in the realm of $2,500 (we pay less currently, which might be a Harlem thing, and could find more if it was an exceptional fit). To move in by, or before, September 1st. We are pretty open to neighborhoods, and know our rent will probably prescribe the hood. As tenants we are quiet, considerate, and leave the place better than we found it.

The jewelweed forest

If you know of a place or someone who might know, please get in touch using the Find/Follow tab, top right.

The tame mourning dove (the bravest of of six)

Hey. We may even move back to Brooklyn!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Formosa = beautiful

...or perhaps voluptuous.

The Formosa lilies are opening. Lilium formosanum, named after the island to which they are native, now Taiwan, then Formosa.

They are lilies in pure form. No spots and stripes, no flaring, no frills. Their scent is delicious and not cloying.

They have some competition from the jewelweed.

Their scent is more pronounced at night.

And good news! The 'Roguchi' clematis (below, with the leaves of a cardinal vine) is in bloom, a rare survivor of last winter. I was incensed the other morning when I found some perfect buds on the terrace floor, the stems neatly snipped. I blame the blue jays. There is four-bird family that visits the terrace - which is nice. But the teenagers are halfwits who will peck at anything that looks juicy. Perhaps they mistook it for  a blueberry. I see that two Silk Road lily buds bear beak marks, too.

It is July. The evenings are bringing rocket fire to the sidewalk, which last night had me diving for cover before I realized it was rocket fire. A little too reminiscent of the sidewalk gunshot two weeks ago. Apparently I've been away for the two previous 4th of July's so the local celebrations are new to me.

We will probably spend that day out at Dead Horse Bay (I'm leading a walk there on August 15th, at low glass-gathering tide). It's been a while. And I have promised myself that I'd bake biscuits, and maybe make a ham. The local stoop sitters might like both.

In other news, I will be giving a talk about local flavors and green spaces at Wave Hill on July 11th, at 1pm, and signing copies of 66 Square Feet- A Delicious Life. It would be nice to see you there.


                        Book a Botanical Summer Walk

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer living

The bean screen is in full swing. New tendrils tilt skywards and every morning I twine them around their wires. The more leaves the fewer windows we see, when sitting outside at night. The purple runner beans have even begun to make tiny-tiny beans.

Suppers are outdoors most nights.

This evening we ate a wild summer herb: American burnweed (Erechtites hieraciifolius, see image below). It is virtually unknown, in the eating world. It grows tall in wasteland and woodland at this time of year.I stumbled across it in 2012 and gave been playing with it every summer since.

It is pungent, the smell reminiscent of lime skin and of cilantro, and of neither. The older leaves are bitter. I like it with the strong flavours of soy, lime, garlic, lemongrass. It would also be good as a foil for sushi, the way shiso is used. This salad was made with terrace herbs: shiso, Thai and purple basil, nasturtium, cilantro - each assertive. The dressing was sesame oil and lime, with a little sugar and black soy sauce. And those are our own favas. One whole handful!

Pine Ridge Chenin blanc-Viognier. Dry but very fruity, perfect for bold food.


                        Book a Botanical Summer Walk

Saturday, June 27, 2015

You like it? Use it!

My editor asked me to sneak around Cape Town to steal some ideas for Gardenista....

Read the story in the link:  11 Garden Ideas to Steal from Cape Town. 

(Two of the gardens pictured - one is above, also where the kitty lives) were open to the public last November, for Open Gardens Constantia, held every two years to raise money for two Cape Town NGO's that teach people in underserved local communities to garden and to grow food for home use and for profit.)


Friday, June 26, 2015

The day of the rainbow

Better late than never. 

Sometimes, there is good news.

Marriage equality. 

In South Africa gay marriage was legalized in 2006. 

A big rainbow hug to all our gay American friends.

A big kiss for the activists and quiet fighters who made it happen.

And a steadfast wish that discrimination everywhere will find an end.

(Now, do I have what it takes to make a rainbow cocktail?)


                        Book a Botanical Summer Walk

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Northeastern botanicals, bottled

This month's project is one that could last a lifetime, and travel wherever we go.

I like vermouth. It is mild enough to drink on its own, and very good to mix into cocktails. I heard that Kobus van der Merwe was tinkering with local flavours in South Africa to create a Strandveld vermouth, and that made me think. And read. A lot. Creating commercial vermouth sounds fascinating. A blend of white wines, about 20 herbs and spices, fortifying with spirit infusions, which are then distilled again, infusing the white wine itself, then aging the mixture in barrels that are left in the sun for a year.


Over the last several years I have played with local flavours, infusing them simply, and cooking, sometimes not so simply; and some indigenes stand out: spicebush, bayberry, sumac, sweetfern. Then there is mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) - not local, but abundant. And in France it is not vermouth unless it includes Artemisia. By law.

I started steeping, and cooking and infusing. Even the terrace contributed herbs.

The result is pink, tinted by the raspberry-spirit infusion, the deep yellow of the spicebush and the green of mugwort and bayberry. And maybe the pink peppercorns played  a part. Since I don't have a still, I could not clear the liquid via a second distillation. Pink it will remain.

I find it appealing. The wildcard is the spicebush, which needs to be kept in check, but the mugwort is an excellent base note. Now that I have an acceptable version there will be many experiments.

A taste of place.


                        Book a Botanical Summer Walk

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Brooklyn Bridge Park Walk

Monarda (bee balm)

Due to incoming storms, June 23's wild foods walk has been re-scheduled for next Tuesday.

30 June 2015, 5pm - 7pm
Brooklyn Bridge Park evening stroll

On a stroll from Pier 1 to Pier 6, come and discover the wild edible plantings of Brooklyn's most botanically rich and Northeast-native inclined park. It has the best view in New York, too.

Beyond the bog

Sassafras and blueberries, cattails and spicebush, bayberry and sweetfern, sumac and sweet serviceberries (pie recipe in  66 Square Feet - A Delicious Life), here is an outdoor classroom that allows us to spot and identify a wealth of indigenous wild edibles.

Afterwards there will be a botanical tipple or two.

We meet in the park at 5pm at Pier 6, at the extremity of Atlantic Avenue, see map link: look for green markers.

The closest subway is at Borough Hall, a 15 minute walk away.

The walk will end on the lawns at Pier 1, where we will enjoy our snack and botanical cocktails. From there you can walk to York Street or Clark Street subways, or go on to dinner at Vinegar Hill  in Dumbo.

To Book:

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