Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Tiny terrace summer

Evening time. After leading a friendly pack of 15 people on a plant walk on the 4th of July - none of us feeling celebratory - and feeding them a tasting picnic (what's a tasting picnic? A picnic where you have a taste of everything, of course), I came home, washed up, and thought about supper. I like thinking about supper. The Frenchman rolled some paper balls for me (we use paper shopping bags as fire lighters; never, ever the smelly liquid) and carried out the charcoal (hardwood, not briquettes), and I lit the fire. 

Then I picked some flowers for the table.

The summer-leafed prickly ash, with ginger and sesame sausages grilling alongside chicken soused in shoyu* with chopped cilantro stems. 

*I can't think when I started using Ohsawa nama shoyu (a Japanese organic, unpasteurized soy sauce, still slightly active in the bottle), but it's a game-changer. Noticeably more expensive than the Kikkoman I used to use and infinitely more delicious and rich.

And the Oscar goes to: the liatris. Plus, nobody got slapped. These plants (they grow from corms) slept quietly all through winter in galvanized bucket (with drainage holes punched into the base), and are now around three feet tall. I lost several lily bulbs to the old freeze-thaw cycle, but the liatris seem immune. Bees love them.

While fireworks crackled on the street and local rockets burst nearby, and giant dragonflies patrolled the sky, occasionally zooming past at ear level, the first 'Silk Road' lily opened, unafraid of the bright competition. As the evening darkened the lily's perfume grew stronger. By the time the thunderworks of the Macy's display had started, way north on the East River, out of sight but not sound, the terrace was drenched in scent.


Tuesday, June 28, 2022


In front of our building, in a patch of earth about two-by-two feet, entirely surrounded by concrete, I planted some perennials for pollinators. The tall hyssop (Agastache) was bought as a tiny thing last year from the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, a not-for-profit that also creates swale gardens along some local streets, to guide runoff from storms into the planted areas. The hyssop is now close to five feet tall. The bee balm (Monarda) in front of it just opened its buds and has unusually small but pretty flower heads. I am not sure if this is because of stress, or whether it is a cultivar bred for them. It is rambunctious. Ideal as a naturalizer in full sun. Plus, leaves that taste like oregano. The unseen bronze fennel behind them is also flowering and already attracting eastern tiger swallowtails.


4 July, Pop-Up Walk

Friday, June 24, 2022


It rained one evening, and we sat in it, getting wet. 


Monday, June 20, 2022

The bay tree that asked to come in

Our bay tree moved indoors! It is the tree in my migrating collection that has received the least attention and yet it has also been the least trouble. 

Anyway, despite being moved outdoors every spring this year the decision was made to reverse the process, for its own good. The bay tree wants to be inside. The story, with tips on growing bay indoors as well as root-pruning the potted tree is on Gardenista. With a very simple but delicious recipe for the fresh leaves. I use them a lot.


Thursday, June 16, 2022

Lilies, and the mighty eep

Regal lilies on the terrace. They opened in the night, and this evening we will sit down outside to a scented supper.

In all the years that we lived with Don Estorbo de la Bodega Dominicana (our big black cat, with a mighty eep) he never tried to nibble a lily (they are highly toxic to cats). I suspect this is because he was an outdoor cat and had grass nearby. He'd actually run after me on the roof if he saw me weeding, and beg for a blade of green. He also never showed the slightest interest in hunting birds, which was also strange, but welcome.  He did hate pigeons, though. Typical New Yorker.

But this is a post about lilies, not dead cats. I am ready for a new cat. It only took eight years. That kitty left huge paw prints to fill.


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Nasturtium capers

Have you made nasturtium seed capers?  They are delicious, with a mild, horse-radish zing. I think they rival the better-known, bottled version. There is still time to sow the flowers and gather their seeds in early fall. (Remember to plant them deep.) 

My recipe for nasturtium capers is on Gardenista along with some other very yummy ideas for eating the leaves, flowers, and fresh seeds. They are also good medicine.

The capers above are still in the process of lacto-fermenting (the linked recipe explains this - it's very simple) and were photographed on the kitchen table in Cape Town. My mom's rambunctious nasturtiums were shedding seeds like mad, and I pounced. 

Here in Brooklyn, my windowbox seedlings have just popped up and should be blooming in a few weeks. Something to look forward to.


Prospect Park Tangles and Trees Walk - 18 June

Monday, June 6, 2022

Avocado ice cream


And it's not sweet, either. It is creamily smooth and tart with a little tingle. (An MFK Fisher story does come to mind, though - about a man who ate his avocado packed neatly with powdered sugar...so it could be sweet. But I digress.)

If you like avocados, you will lap this up. And if you have a bowl of chilled gazpacho or cucumber soup, dropping a scoopful of the avocado ice cream into the middle is life-altering.

The necessary sour notes come from buttermilk and lemon juice, and the tongue-tingling from Sichuan pepper, or, in this case, prickly ash, its American cousin. My little tree is male so does not produce the "peppercorns" that are Sichuan pepper, but its leaves are very flavorful. 

I wrote a story about prickly ash and another native American herb-slash-spice, spicebush, for Gardenista. And that is also where you will you will find the divine and very easy avocado ice cream recipe.


June 16, Alley Pond Pond Walk

5.30pn - 7.30pm