Friday, March 31, 2017

Grow Journey on a Bun

The last day of March. Did anyone see it sprinting past? In what direction was it headed? What was it wearing???

Tomorrow is April.

And I have microgreens. I have been collecting all my leftover Grow Journey seeds - just a few from each packet from over a year's worth, mixing them up and tossing them in seed trays every few weeks. They have provided welcome and miniature salads for lunches at home, while I work. I have been tied to my laptop with writing for the forage cookbook. Taking a break to snip microgreens and cook an egg (they belong together) has been very welcome.

These seedlings are a collection of kales and mustards and beets and lettuces.

Please note the steam. Bitten into while hot.

And then there was today's breakfast of defrosted baked olive oil dough (worked like a treat) experiment, with hot sauce...

In the garden I have sown Grow Journey's mâche (lambs lettuce) and a purple Indian mustard. After swearing off tomatillos last year (they made so many I was overwhelmed), Grow Journey's seed of the month package contained purple tomatillos. What is a gardener to do? Simple: change her mind. Who could resist? I will bottle them and make them into sauce. I have never done real canning, but it is time to learn something new, in the preservation department.

I am waiting to sow the tomatillos as the seed trays in the bedroom - the brightest room in the apartment - are beginning to take over the world.

As always, you can sign up for a free, 30-day Grow Journey trial, no strings attached. In return you will receive 5 packages of USDA certified organic heirloom seeds. One of the greatest benefits of membership, as I have said before, and will again, is the growing support you receive on your personal dashboard. The specific as well as general horticultural information made available to you is top notch and reliable; it is not only exceptionally educational, but also very interesting. Having this resource in one place, rather than having to surf the web for answers, is time saving as well as convenient. I know I have learned a great deal.

What are you planting now?


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March blasts

March. Too many seedlings indoors. Here, the unrealistic artichokes. I know. But in winter you think unreasonable thoughts.

Feeding the flock. The white throated sparrows (top and bottom) have stayed all winter. They are cheekier than the common sparrows, and sing much better, of course. I do miss our Harlem terrace juncos and house finches (wth red heads and throats).

The elephant garlic braved the snow. The saffron crocus leaves also persisted right through winter (they bloomed in late fall, a few weeks after I planted them. I collected enough for one stew/bouillabaisse).

Nettles! One of the first perennials to emerge. It came with us from Harlem, in a blueberry pot, where it showed up one summer. It will be eaten. I am curious to see how much it has spread in one and a half years.

In the kitchen I looked up the other day to see a possum in the corner viburnum. I have not seen them for ages, though the Frenchman spotted one late at night, recently. I love their presence in the garden. They do not carry rabies (unlike raccoons), they eat their body weight in ticks, and have kept my garden slug and snail free (I think - I don't know what other explanation there could be).

I have horse radish to plant in the vegetable plot. And tender bulbs like Eucomis (pineapple lily) and spider lily (Hymenocallis - so sexist, yes? White, pure, virginal? Am I reading too much into it?). Anyhoo, both an experiment in flowering bulbs for shade; they will be planted on the cement slab, closer to the house, in pots.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Duck prosciutto

After curing in the fridge, comes the hanging. 

The kitchen is airy, no cellar needed.

Day 10 of hanging = happiness.

Of the duck prosciuttos I have made this one has been by far the best - a hybrid of the methods I have used in the past, and then some serious flavouring. Not too salty, just enough of the wild ingredients (fir and juniper) coming through, perfectly cured meat and a smooth, melt in your mouth fattiness. The Frenchman eats the whole slice, but I reserve most of my fat bits for crisping in a pan (duck kaaings, for South Africans, who do this with lamb). The tiny, nutty bits of fat are like chips and the rendered fat makes the best rösti I have ever eaten. Yes, we do need more exercise. Recipe testing is dangerous waistline work.

This is one of the recipes that will be in my new forage and wild foods cookbook. But there are miles to go before we sleep!

A reminder, as we inch towards spring, that my first forage walk is on April 15. Space is limited. See the link below for more details.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Perimeter Patrol

After being housebound for 48 hours I took myself for a walk to shake off the domestic demons that always sense weakness and pounce. It amounted to a patrol of the hood's borders, a checking of the picket lines. I walked for 25 minutes before I took a picture. On Union Street, at very low tide, the Gowanus lay low and sluggish.

On its surface was the most beautiful bloom of oil. It was mesmerizing. Each patch grew and stretched and kaleidoscoped in the light. I stayed a while. I made movies.

Then I turned right and north up Baltic Street.

Which has turned into a mural allée.


The snow was hardpacked and some sidewalks were clear. It was very cold. I wore tall red Hunter boots which are impervious to the gray slush corner dams.

                         You've all seen pretty snow pictures, but on main drags it's always like this.

At Damascus I bought a new milk pot, which is actually a Turkish coffee pot. Note icicles.

The Shitibikes were iced in (I like the bikes, I hate the branding). 

And a beautifully empty Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park, stretched ahead. The wind and cold were amazing. I wrapped my long scarf over my knitted cap and round my ears and face.

The last weeks of vacillatingly warm temperatures popped some buds. These are birch catkins before the long catkin itself drops out. Like pussy willow. I am not sure how the intense cold will affect buds at this stage.

The grasses are beautiful. I don't know what this grass is. It reminds me of Themeda triandra, rooigrass; my totem grass, if there is such a thing. Grass of childhood, koppies, grasslands. They say it stays in your blood.

Not a soul.

I did not stay long.

The Men in Black Building on Governor's Island guarded the choppy harbor (it's actually a vent for the Red Hook tunnel - not its real name - 140 feet underneath, connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan, via the longest underwater tunnel in North America).

An hour and a half after I set out, I was on my way back along Columbia Street, where I passed Eshete the Ethiopian cat man giving his cats dinner on flattened cardboard boxes. He was even more bundled up than usual and his regular friend from the neighborhood was sharing some hot food with him.

I headed home, grateful for hot showers, a friendly face, dinner to come and a choice of beds and down comforters to sleep in and under.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Where to buy edible weeds

...and some snow.

Brooklyn's blizzard is some snow with many ice pellets. I am dreaming of early spring foraging, even as we are blanketed in white. But thank goodness this gives me much-needed time to carry on the task of transcribing hundreds of recipes for the new book, before foraging season really hits and my time will be converted to gathering, photographing and more recipe testing.

Up on Edible Manhattan today is my article about farmers who are beginning to sell edible weeds, with a simple and fresh recipe for knotweed (plus a link to Sam Thayer's special wild hickory oil).

Sunday, March 12, 2017

End times

A blizzard is approaching, but this is what the vegetable plot looks like after last Friday's gentle snowfall. The garlic will be fine. The potatoes were planted too early (I am really annoyed at myself) in February's fake spring (I bet it was the warmest on record, again), and will probably be mush - not because of the snow, which is an insulator, but because of the serious deep freezes we have had since and the cold to come this week - many degrees below freezing. Saving my special potatoes all winter in the fridge just to get them killed by own impatience is...pfffffff.

But snow is on its way and I am happy about that. I'd rather have real snow than fake winter.

South Africa is having crazy weather, too. The wind blew so hard on Sunday that the Cape Town Cycle Tour, an immense and impeccably organized event, was canceled after it had begun. Cyclists were blown right off their bikes. Their bikes flew in the air as they hung onto the handlebars. Google some videos. It's fascinating. And in Durban the beachfront was swamped by massive surge - like a tsunami. End of days.

If it's the apocalypse, fine. Trump is president and the world is in disarray.

If you know of a handy cliff with a view, point me at it. I'm ready to make like a lemming.

In the meantime, there is buckwheat sourdough and Irish salmon.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Eat Your Dirt - a Gardening Summit

Photos: Steve Masley

From March 5th - 11th an exciting online gardening conference is being held featuring some stellar soil experts. It's called Eat your Dirt.

Topics range from the soil food web and enhancing soil to composting, vermicomposting, permaculture and food forest design, hugelkultur, vertical farming, edible landscaping, growing organically, and living sustainably. 

Steven Masley is one of the speakers. Steve is a professional organic gardener working in California. His Grow It Organically website first steered me towards the use of oyster and egg shells to raise pH (very successfully, in my case, from 5.4 to 6.6 in one year). All the photos in this post are of gardens he has created.

Steve will be speaking on Vermicomposting (you know, vhen you farm vith verms?) and Potting Soil Mixes on Sunday, March 5th, at 9 pm EST (6 pm PST). On Monday, March 6th, at 6 pm EST (3 pm PST), he will be speaking on Container Gardening and Growing in Raised Beds.

The six-day conference also features Dr. Elaine Ingham of The Soil Food Web, Anne Bikle and David Montgomery, authors of The Hidden Half of Nature (about the importance of microbes in our lives), permaculture authorities Paul Wheaton, Michael Judd, Amy Stross, and William Horvath, urban homesteading designers Sarah Sailer and Carleen Madigan, and Grace Gershuny, Chelsea Green author of The Soul of the Soil, and Compost, Vermicompost and Compost Tea.

You can get a free pass that gives you rolling 48-hour access to ALL the conference content, including round table discussions, live Q and A sessions, and other live events throughout the week.  You can take a look at the conference schedule, make a note of talks you want to hear, then watch them within 48 hours of airing, free. (Once you have signed up you will receive an email with detailed instructions.)

If you like what you hear, you can sign up for an all access pass (currently $147, but $87 if you have the Free Pass) that gives you anytime-access to all of the conference content, 24/7.

Steve Masley will also be participating in two live Q and A Sessions on Monday, March 6th at 11 am EST (8 am PST) and Thursday, March 9th at 3 pm EST (Noon PST).  


Thursday, March 2, 2017


An interesting day. Work at home, go out to fetch emergency mulch, lock myself out, hop the fence to break in again, cycle to a meeting at Brooklyn Bridge Park, cycle home, scurry into the garden with bags of just delivered mulch.

The weather swings wild this week. Midweek it was T-shirts and flip-flops for a walk in the hood on my usual errand route. Balmy. Then came a crazy wind. The next three nights we will dip well below freezing, and on Saturday it's supposed to be 16'F/-9'C.  So...those tender green shoots and buds appearing in the garden are going to be frost fried. Then there are the darn potatoes. I know. My fault. In an effort to stave of the worst I bought some bags of cedar mulch from our local hardware store and mounded it in rows over the most vulnerable plants. Interesting experiment. By the way, far right, above? The leaves of the saffron crocus whose flowers I harvested last November.

The tatsoi is beginning to look very good after overwintering but I decided to pick half of it. A subterranean line of purple potatoes is planted between the tatsoi rows.

The tatsoi needs a very good soaking to dislodge grit (and oyster shell) and then I think I will wilt it and serve it with nothing but a slosh of sweetened soy.

Guess what that is? Monkshood. It bloomed well into November. Very pretty spring foliage. They are all ready to rock and roll, so I dumped some mulch on them too. I'll scrape it all off early next week.