Friday, September 30, 2022

September flowers and a gingery treat

The rosemary on the terrace thinks it is spring, and is in full bloom. Tomorrow the remnants of Hurricane Ian will rain down on it, but I'm not sure that will change the herb's mind.

After growing mighty leggy in August the hyssop (the trusty Agastache 'Black Adder') was given a haircut. I trimmed each stalk back by about a third, to above a leaf, and it has bushed out and bloomed again, more compact, like another version of itself. Good for late bees. Even our occasional little hummingbirds have tried it.  As ubiquitous a plant as it has become, there are very few perennials that will bloom as long and be as attractive to pollinators. So it is very welcome.

And September and October mean...myoga buds at last. They appear like little presents at the base of the plant, and every morning becomes a treasure hunt as I wiggle my fingers in the soil to see if another one is ready to snap off. This one - washed and slivered - was lunch, tossed with the first Honey Crisp apples, in a mayonnaise, lemon and gochujang dressing.


Next walks and classes? 

15 and 16 October, North Woods and NYBG

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Picnic fare for fall

In Brooklyn we are breezing into fall. It seems sudden, but how can it be? Days pass, nights cool, mornings feel fragile. The September blue has settled over the city, and in park woodlands white snakeroot flowers are in full, white fluff. 

My plant walks and forage picnics are more frequent. Carrying a 20 - 25lb backpack when the weather is 70 degrees is remarkably more more pleasant than when it's 90 and humid. 

The buns above are made with a luxurious, cream-and-milk-based dough, and are stuffed with a beach plum paste, made by cooking down the pulp of the small, native fruit (it is intense - sweet with just the right amount of sour).

And the tiniest of Seckel pears have arrived at market, perfectly-sized to fit into the stainless steel picnic containers. I poached them in a juniper (eastern red cedar - Juniperus virginiana) and Meyer lemon syrup.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Signs of September

September in Brooklyn. 

Small, wind-dropped pawpaws (Asimina triloba). Ragweed flower heads drying (for crackers). Sunflowers from the local deli, and books. Olia Hercules' Summer Kitchens has been a constant companion for months - an incongruously peaceful Ukraine spread across the beautiful pages. Food Plants of the World (under the pawpaws) by South African Ben-Erik van Wyk is a helpful reference for my own work (if you call delving into the edible uses of plants work; it sure is time-consuming) and for articles I might be writing.  

And Ethiopia, Recipes amd Traditions from the Horn of Africa, by Yohanis Gebreyesus and Keff Koehler is a wonderful resource that increased my spice shelf by a full row (six jars). I mean, I had used berbere (a fragrant, hot spice blend) for years, but this cookbook introduced me to ajowan, koseret, besobella, long pepper, the proper use of black nigella, and at last convinced me to acquire grains of paradise. What was even sexier was that the herbs' botanical names - with one vexing exception (tosegn, a species of thyme) - were included in a couple of explanatory pages. That never happens.

In the back, my old Margaret Roberts' Indigenous Healing Plants, consulted for a piece I wrote about black nightshade (you can read it on Gardenista). And my own two books. Forage, Harvest, Feast for a recent Pawpaw Spicecake for last weekend's forage walk and picnic with a group of 16 out on Staten Island. And 66 Square Feet - A Delicious Life, because it's been years since I really dipped into it. It's almost a seasonal archive, in the age of global warming - every month's weather and moods charted and described, and its produce grown or eaten. Perhaps, in 50 years' time, it will all seem implausible.



Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Flowers for feathered travelers

For two days in a row our small terrace has been visited by the tiniest of birds, making the mightiest of journeys. 

You hope, when you plant a seed, that something like this will happen at the other end of the growing season, but you never know.

It has been magical, watching from a few feet away as this miniature creature flashes from flower to flower, sometimes pausing in midair for seconds, suspended.

There are three vines, in two pots. One is grown from a seed given to me by our friend Don in Cape Town, two are from Botanical Interests. But I don't know which is which. I call them lablab beans, but most Americans know them as hyacinth bean. Lablab purpureus is African, so hardly a native food for the ruby-throated hummingbird. (Weeks ago we saw them feasting on trumpet vine flowers - native eastern Campsis radicans - out at Jamaica Bay. But our tiny terrace is no match for that perennial twiner's aggressive behavior.) 

Still, can a foreign flower be worse for hummingbirds than sugar water? It's definitely less problematic in terms of passing on pathogens. And much more photogenic.

If only we could pack them a tiny lunch, for sustenance along the way.


Book a Walk and Picnic

Sunday, September 11, 2022

The time of the pawpaws

This is a magnificent sight. Clusters of big pawpaws (the fruit of Asimina triloba), ripening in Brooklyn, just a few blocks from where we live. If I had an in-ground garden, I would plant two trees. Even if I wasn't quite sure how long I'd be there. But better if I could look forward to picking them every early fall. They take around seven years to bear fruit. And these trees are only around 12 years old. When their grower, Lola, texted me to ask if I would like some (for the third year in a row), my answer was an all-caps YES, PLEASE. 

September. Month of pawpaws. At least, in this zip code (October, for upstate, NY). The apartment smells like tropical fruit salad. I spoon up mouthfuls and cherish every bite. 

Tomorrow I will de-seed them and freeze some portions of pulp, for future picnics and foodsploration. There will have to be just one batch of ice cream (which is indescribably good), even though the whole freezer will have to be unpacked to accommodate the bowl of the ice ream maker. 

I think I'll make the pawpaw spicecake from Forage, Harvest, Feast for this Saturday's adventure in the wilds of Staten Island.



Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Ripe in late summer...





My story about the beautiful fruit we call cornelian cherry is up at Gardenista. And you know there's a recipe!


Saturday, September 3, 2022

That light has arrived

In early September the western side of the terrace is backlit by clear, late-afternoon sunlight. It catches each bristle on the seed capsules of the southern African milkweed, Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Behind it, the lablab beans glow in the western light. Lablab purpureus takes is sweet time to produce flowers. Plant the pretty seeds it in late spring and expect the vine to become (very) enthusiastic only when Labor Day, and the traditional end of summer, are within whisker-reach. Then the party breaks loose.