September 3, 2010 § 3 Comments
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living…I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” –Joseph John Campbell, American mythologist, writer and lecturer
My yoga teacher has offered the phrase “follow your bliss” a few times before starting class. Ever since I heard her say it, I’ve thought that it’s a beautiful concept to meditate on while practicing yoga. (And on a side note, every time I hear the phrase I think of my friends whose last name is Bliss, which is an awesome last name — lends a whole new meaning to the phrase, eh?)
After the craziness of the critters and my strawberry fortresses, I wanted to share good news from the garden. I like to think that these small successes are the result of me following my bliss in gardening: discovering that nurturing a seed through its life cycle and rejuvenating flora that once looked lost fills me with joy, and then sticking with it even when I fail or feel like I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.
So, first: The strawberry fortresses worked. My husband and I enjoyed five ripe, unscathed strawberries for dessert the other night. I harvested another six the next morning for breakfast and four more this afternoon. So far, at least, the critters haven’t figured out how to get past the sharp, pointy sticks and into the glass jars, and I haven’t had a midnight encounter with a raccoon.
Second: My bolted veggies are getting another life as flower arrangements. It must be the unusually hot weather we’re having in San Francisco, because my arugula and parsley — not just my cilantro — have bolted, sending up thick stalks topped with flower buds. (Sadly, my cilantro did not survive our week away in Hawai’i.) Luckily, one of my readers shared with me that the arugula flower photo in one of my posts inspired her to use blooms from her garden to create sculptural arrangements for her office. Inspired myself, I now have a lovely arrangement of arugula and parsley flowers in a glass jar on my desk.
Third: There are new flower buds in the garden. The September sunshine seems to have triggered a new phase of life out there. The artichokes have stretched in size and both have buds emerging, though one plant is a little farther ahead than the other.
The dahlias are sending out their second set of flowers, and one bloom is beginning to unfurl.
Even the jalapa pepper is striving to survive. Although the first pepper leapt to its death a month ago, two tiny peppers-to-be are developing and a third flower is starting to transform into fruit.
And finally, there’s the camellia bush, which was mostly branches in our backyard when we moved in and generated one flower in five years. I must admit I neglected it for a long while, but this year when I got into gardening, my in-laws and I weeded around it, giving it some breathing space, and I gave it consistent TLC. The shrub has now begun to erupt in pink blossoms, and there are still dozens of fuzzy flower buds that I hope will actually pop open.
I hope you, too, find some bliss this week. What do you think of those strawberries and flowers??
September 2, 2010 § 9 Comments
I thought I’d try something a bit different in this post: highlight a great local food event and the fruits and vegetables in season NOW at farmers’ markets, so you can enjoy a locavore weekend. (If people like this post, I’ll try to do it regularly.)
OFF THE GRID: GET YOUR FOOD TRUCK FIX
As I mentioned in my Eat Real Festival post, you didn’t have to go to Oakland to enjoy the offerings of the Bay Area’s copious food trucks. You can get the goods right here in S.F., every Friday at Fort Mason from 5-9 p.m, at Off The Grid.
The event has confirmed 25 food vendors for tomorrow, including three new ones (TaKorea, Curbside Coffee and Tru Gourmet Dim Sum) and returning vendors such as Chairman Bao, Creme Brulee Cart, Kara’s Kupcakes, and Senor Sisig. You can find the full list on their Facebook page. You’ll hear live music by three different bands, and a bar is available with beer, wine, margaritas (yeah!), mojitos and sangria.
FARMERS’ MARKETS: GET WHAT’S IN SEASON NOW…
…Before it disappears. Here are the best fruits and vegetables in season that I’ve sampled from last Saturday’s farmers’ market in Noe Valley and today’s farmers’ market at the Ferry Building* — plus some tips on how to eat the goods:
Pluots – Get these this Saturday because no more will be left on the trees after that
- What they are: A pluot is a hybrid of 70% plum and 30% apricot, though they mainly look like plums. They’re very sweet (sweeter flesh and less tart skin than plums), intensely flavored and full of vitamins A and C. See more on varieties below
- Varieties to buy: Flavor Grenade (yellow with a red-orange blush) was very sweet with no tartness in the skin; this was my favorite for eating fresh. Dapple Dandy was a close second, with a slightly tart beginning and end but a sweet middle when you eat it; I’m going to make jam out of these so we can enjoy the taste of summer in January! Flavor King’s skin was a bit too tart for me, but if you love plums, you’ll probably like these
- Where to buy: Ferry Building market: Tory Farms (near the Gandhi statue). I got to talk to Tory, the husband in this family-owned farm, who’s been farming for 50 years. He’s a really friendly guy with a grizzly gray beard and an unmatched enthusiasm for his produce. I asked him how he grew such sweet, large pluots (they’re the size of apples), and he says he leaves them on the tree until they’re ripe. They prune the trees so that the fruit ripens in phases — the top is ripe first, then the middle, then the bottom, giving them a few weeks’ worth of market sales out of the trees. When I tasted the Dapple Dandy and said I wanted to make jam, he got out a new box and helped me pick the best ones, sharing with me the tip that less ripe fruit has more pectin so sets better in jam, whereas riper fruit has less pectin and will make a runnier, but deeper-flavored, jam. I am now a loyal fan of Tory Farms
- How to store: Pluots continue to ripen once off the tree. Turn pluots upside down and leave them on the counter, out of the sun. When they reach the desired ripeness, store them unwrapped in the refrigerator up to three days. Tell the folks at the farm stand when you plan to eat them so they can help you choose the ones that will be at their peak at that time
- How to eat: Out of hand, best at room temperature; make jam (if it turns out well, I’ll share the recipe); make a pluot tart (which I must admit, I’ve never done as I never liked pluots until I found these)
White nectarines – These are only going to be available for the next 2 weeks
- What they are: I think self-explanatory, but they’re very sweet and best eaten the day of purchase or within 1-2 days
- Where to buy: Ferry Building market: Tory Farms (near the Gandhi statue)
- How to store: Nectarines also continue to ripen once off the tree. Turn nectarines upside down and leave them on the counter, out of the sun. Tell the folks at the farm stand when you plan to eat them so they can help you choose the ones that will be at their peak at that time
- How to eat: I like them crunchy, eaten out of hand, or cut up in a simple fruit salad — see my “recipe” here
Padron peppers – These may be nearing the end of their season too, so snap them up if you see them
- What they are: The 2-inch peppers originally from Spain are sweet and nutty, though there’s an occasional hot one
- Where to buy: Ferry Building market: Happy Quail Farms (which introduced the padron to California in 2001); Noe Valley market: Happy Boy Farms
- How to store: If you’re eating them the day you buy them, keep them on the counter, and wash them right before you cook them. If you’re not eating them for a couple of days, store them unwashed in the fridge
- How to eat: Typical preparation: wash and pat dry the padrons, heat oil in a frying pan until smoking, cook the padrons until they’re blistery and brown, then add salt and maybe red pepper (kind of like mini-pepper fries but better). They’re a great snack or “tapas” to eat before your meal. But, my favorite preparation are “kettle padrons” from The Inadvertent Gardener here — sweet, salty, and just plain scrumptious
- What they are: Heirlooms are considered to be a variety that has been passed down through several family generations because of its valued characteristics. However, due to the popularity of these funky-shaped, wonderfully-hued fruit, there are also commercial heirlooms, open-pollinated varieties that have been in circulation for at least 50 years
- Where to buy: Ferry Building market: Allstar Organics, Balakian Farms, Eatwell Farm, Heirloom Organics; Noe Valley market: Field of Greens
- How to store: Tomatoes will continue to ripen but lose flavor if you refrigerate them. Turn them upside down and leave them on the counter, out of the sun. Tell the folks at the farm stand when you plan to eat them so they can help you choose the ones that will be at their peak at that time
- How to eat: My two favorite ways to eat heirlooms are: (1) caprese salad — slice the tomatoes thickly, top with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf, then sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil; (2) tomato salad — chop tomatoes into big chunks and toss with small mozzarella balls and just a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
- What they are: We had these small, yellow-green beauties this past week, and they were very sweet, with tender skins and juicy insides. Unfortunately I didn’t get the variety, so if anyone knows, feel free to comment
- Where to buy: Ferry Building market: Twin Girls Farm; Noe Valley market: Twin Girls Farm (Twin Girls is one of my favorite fruit purveyors)
- How to store: In the fridge, unwashed, in a plastic bag. Wash right before eating
- How to eat: Out of hand as a snack
- Why to buy: Even though they’re not edible, they are gorgeous, so you may want to pick up a bunch or two to adorn your home, or as a host/hostess gift if you’re going to a friends’ Labor Day barbecue
- Where to buy: Ferry Building market: Thomas Farm
- How to keep: Dahlias will start wilting as soon as they’re out of water, so get them home fairly quickly if you can. Once home, snip off the bottom inch of the stems and put them in 2-3 inches of very hot water (i.e., kitchen faucet turned all the way to hot), which will perk them up and set the blooms so they last for 4-6 days
Enjoy your weekend! And let me know if this was at all helpful.
*Sorry, I haven’t yet had a chance to do reconnaissance on the Alemany farmers’ market, but I will soon!
July 16, 2010 § Leave a Comment
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anais Nin
My yoga teacher gave us that quote to take with us in our practice yesterday. As an aside, my yoga teacher has this uncanny knack for sharing quotes or book excerpts that are the exact thing I need to hear at that point in my week. I thought this particular quote was a perfect description for how my life has unfolded over the past six months: a journey of self-discovery and blossoming of various creative endeavors. It’s also an appropriate description of what’s happening in the garden right now!
Even through the vagaries of our San Francisco summer — the weather alternating between foggy and windy to sunny and 70 degrees — the plants in the vegetable garden and the dahlias are marching along to their internal clocks.
The cilantro that bolted recently is establishing its flowers. I’m looking forward to seeing if I can get coriander seeds out of them…mmm, fresh coriander for cooking would be an excellent alternative to the cilantro leaves I’d hoped for.
The chard seedlings are starting to resemble what they’ll look like in adulthood — bright red and yellow stems and pleated leaves that I can cut and saute with garlic or onions. Soon, I’ll need to thin them so they don’t choke each other, and we can eat the thinnings in a salad.
The apple tree is thinning itself (quite self-sufficient, that apple tree!). Each day another green apple with red blush falls onto the ground. I’m keeping them in a basket on my kitchen counter because I can’t bear to throw them away, although the only mildly palatable-sounding recipe I’ve found for unripe apples is an apple-calvados jelly. I’m not sure we’ll ever eat that, so I haven’t decided whether to go through the trouble. This morning, tiny birds (sparrows? wrens?) were hanging upside down from the apple tree branches, pecking away — not at the fruit, so perhaps they were eating bugs.
A few of the first juliet cherry tomatoes are finally starting to ripen! This morning I noticed that the green had transformed into light orange. One early girl cherry tomato has a yellow-orange tint as well.
And the dahlia buds are starting to stretch open, one petal at a time. I’m so curious to see what stage the flowers have reached when we return from our week on the east coast.