Friday, September 30, 2016

Basil ice cream and other garden wonders

The Grow Journey Thai basil that I planted out in late spring grows in two huge troughs (gifts late last year from my friend Julia Miller, who lives a few blocks away) right against the house. Apart from mid-June and till mid August, when they receive an welcome hour or so of direct sun, these troughs are in full shade. The basil is three feet tall and forest-like. I also planted some ginger rhizomes in the same deep troughs and their bamboo-like stems and long peppery leaves lean out above the Thai basil. The feeling is Edible Jungle.

So. You can grow Thai basil in shade. Yes, you really can.

What do do with so much basil? In Cape Town in August I tasted the most delicious ice cream I have eaten. Connie Finnemore served it at the end of a dinner and I was mesmerized by its flavor. Can you guess what it is? she asked. I got the lemon right, but I missed the basil and thought it was mint. It was so unexpected. And green. In short: Lemon curd, basil, cream and gin (recipe here). I was converted to ice cream eating on the spot. Back in Brooklyn I mowed down the Thai basil to take upstate to friends for the weekend, and whipped the ice cream up quickly when we arrived (I use home made lemon curd), so that it would be frozen by that evening. Everyone hummed with pleasure.

I made it again last week. The gin stops the cream from setting very hard, so it can scoop quite well. Even better, no ice cream maker required.

In the last few days New York decided to turn from an unseasonably hot 'n humid (yet rainless) September to chilly gusts with rain. I am wearing a sweater. And thank goodness, because I am thinking about mushrooms; it is hen of the woods season. Speaking of which,  the founders of Grow Journey, Aaron and Susan are into foraging and mushrooms, big time - you can see some of their finds on their Tyrant Farms blog. Another reason to like them.

So, it's time to plant fall greens in my garden where the glorious sun of summer has retreated to the very rear of the long plot, again. We have lived here for one year, and I remember how worried I was about the light, this time last year.

What is coming up? Here are the baby greens, all from those seeds of the month packets.

Bok choy - this cultivar is 'Prize Choy.' I have never grown it before and am hoping for the best - the birds have left it alone, and while I see some nibbles, mostly the bugs seem to stay away from brassicas. The online Grow Guide that you can access as a Grow Journey member tells me 30 days till baby harvest, 50 days till maturity. With my sun situation it may be a little longer. Cross your fingers.

Kale 'Dazzling Blue,' above.

Very tiny chard. But not Swiss: "‘MacGregor’s Favorite’ is touted as the best tasting of all chard (unlike Swiss chard, this variety has small veins like regular beets — beets and chard are the same species bred for different uses but you can also eat the young beet-like roots of this variety). The glossy, tender leaves are a deep, antioxidant-rich red with darker burgundy veins. An improved heirloom variety from Scotland, this plant can be “cut-and-come-again” all season long in most areas.' 

May it be so. I love chard, I love eating beet leaves (borscht season is almost upon us), and I love harvesting crops when the living world seems to be retreating.

And finally, 'Dragon' carrots are purple-red, and the Grow Guide says they have the same lycopene content as tomatoes. Good for hearts. Carrots are also a new crop for me. As a longtime container gardener I never felt I could offer up pot-space to carrots. Only 30 days for baby carrots, 70 to 85 for full size. And if the roots fail, there are always the leaves - very good in soup.


  1. Thought i was too late to plant the rest of my Grow Journey - bok choy and spinach.... but think i will do it tomorrow .... if the rain lets up long enough. We've had more than enough, already!!

    1. Yes, you will be able to harvest this late fall webb - not mature, maybe, but very good salad leaves.

  2. I would join Grow Journey if i was across the Big Water!

  3. Don't dawdle, please, with the Thai basil ice cream. I'm north of you with a big basil
    plant ready for sacrifice.

  4. Maybe you have already done this, Marie, but if not would you consider doing a basic "things you can eat and also grow in containers in full shade" post? In my new apartment I have wonderful deep windowsills, but they are surrounded by mature magnolia trees and I wouldn't even call the shade "dappled." I'm looking for anything that I can grow there, but if I can eat it, all the better!

  5. Basil ice cream looks good. I might try it at home.

    - gustavo woltmann


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