Monday, December 28, 2009

Remembering Spring

Although these pictures were taken in the Fall, it helps me to remember what the garden looked like before being hit by the recent frosts. I am thankful that it still brings me joy and a sense of wonderment that the lemon blossom becomes a lemon, or that we have been able to harvest arugula, kale, chard, and lettuce that grew from seeds that I held in my hands only a few months ago! Maybe it is my poor memory that allows me to enjoy gardening so much, but at this time of year when the landscape is so bleak, it is easy for me to forget the flowers of Spring.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Edible Ornamentals

I kept waiting for the first frost to kill my portulacas, but it still hasn't come. The poor plants looked so sad that I decided to put them out of their misery. The winter veggies looked so lovely that I took home a few more than I needed for my square foot beds. I crammed the leftover plants into these pots and another on the porch. The creeping thyme in the background has shared this pot with many other plants, but the lollo rosso lettuce, red russian kale, pak choi, dill, and pansies are all new. I know there are way too many plants in these pots, but I am enjoying them all right now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Super Sugar Snap Peas

Fresh snap peas from the garden are one of my favorite treats from the garden. I force myself to share them with my 3 year old, but I want to secretly devour them before she sees me. So far there have only been about 4 or 5 precious pods, so I have felt particularly greedy and been much too proud of myself for sharing. The vines are now loaded with flowers and I hope to have a larger harvest before a frost really knocks them out.

Ranunculus and Stock

I have always loved the old fashioned look and sweet-spicy scent of stock flowers (Matthiola incana), but never noticed them for sale or thought about actually growing my own. Since the weather has been so lovely I have been cruising around my favorite nurseries; The Natural Gardener, Barton Springs, and The Great Outdoors. These are all reputable establishments, so I think that maybe they will do well here. I picked up a few at each spot, but must admit that the specimens at NG were truly outstanding. The mass of pink and purple 4 inch pots were truly stunning. Hopefully they will shine in my garden as well. A gardener from San Antonio recommends removing the bottom leaves to prevent fungal problems, I will try this with my plants.

I was also seduced by the lovely ranunculus available right now. Although I am a sucker for the red, I was drawn to this cheerful yellow. I have been told that here in Austin they are treated as annuals, I still hold out the hope of seeing some of them come back.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book Review - Veganomicon

Veganomicon, The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

I want to preface this review by saying that I am not vegan, but I felt compelled to recommend this book because the recipes are so outstanding. First, let me say that I love growing chard and kale, but quickly run out of ideas for how to incorporate them into meals. Usually they end up in soups or omelets. Although this is delicious, it is also somewhat limited. I found my new favorite way to eat greens in this book. The Citrus-Date-Sesame sauce recipe is worth the price alone. Miso, dates, orange juice, and tahini are combined to create an incredible sweet and savory sauce. I saute the greens and then put them on top of a baked sweet potato and top it off with this awesome concoction. I have been eating this daily for a week and I am still in love with this combo.

Next, I tried the French Lentil Soup with tarragaon and thyme. I modified the recipe a bit since I had green split peas on hand. I have heard that Mexican mint marigold can be substituted for Tarragon. My history with similar recommendations has left me dubious, but on this occasion I risked it all and used fresh Mexican mint marigold instead of the tarragon and fresh thyme instead of dried. I also added some roasted red peppers from the garden. The soup was outstanding! The substitutions worked beautifully, and unlike many large pots of soup that I have made, we ate it all.

This book is highly recommended.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Purple and Green Cabbage

The cabbage seedlings are enjoying the rain and milder weather. I feel like a gardener again!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Arugula and Nasturtiums

My neighbor gave me some Italian arugula seeds last summer. I planted them about a month ago with some Empress of India Nasturtiums (you can see their dark blue-green leaves poking through the arugula). I haven't been very lucky with nasturtiums since moving here, but these look pretty good so far. I look forward to salads with these peppery plants.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Salted Ganache Cake Recipe

Salted Chocolate Ganache Cake
Serves 8
Baking Spray
1 1/4 c sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c butter, softened
1 large egg
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp orange extract
3 T dark brown sugar
2 1/2 oz dark chocolate, divided
1 T butter
1/4 tsp sea salt or fleur de sel

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Coat 1 (9-inch) round cake pan with baking spray.
3. Lightly spoon cake flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Place 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg; mix well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla.
4. Beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until foamy using clean, dry beaters. Gradually add 3 tablespoons sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold half of egg white mixture into flour mixture; fold in remaining egg white mixture. Grate 1/2 ounce chocolate; fold grated chocolate into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.
5. Chop the remaining 2 ounces chocolate. Combine chocolate, 1 tablespoon butter, and orange extract in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave at medium 1 minute or until chocolate melts, stirring every 15 seconds. Spread chocolate mixture over top of cake; sprinkle evenly with sea salt.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Salted Chocolate Ganache Cake

This Salted Chocolate Ganache cake was featured in the current Cooking Light magazine. I decorated it with marigolds from my garden in the spirit of Dia de los muertas.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Valentine Rose 1951

I planted two of these floribundas last Spring after admiring their velvety red blooms at the Antique Rose Emporium. One had the misfortune of being moved twice after planting, and both survived the Summer of Hell with only scant irrigation. Currently both bushes are covered in blooms. They nod quite romantically after it rains, and last well as cut flowers too. I am in love.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Alchemy and Pickled Okra

I love okra, and I won't try to pretend that it isn't slimy, but there is something magical about pickled okra. The slime makes the vinegar less astringent and since I like to add a lot of crushed red peppers, the slime helps with the burn (kinda like aloe vera).

I don't can, so these are refrigerator pickles. The clemson spineless and red okra were picked from my garden today. I stuffed the jars with okra, garlic, mustard seeds, jalepenos, and added some pickling spices. Then I boiled up some vinegar (apple cider, rice wine, and white) with mustard seeds, cumin, chile flakes, and salt. As it started to boil, this concoction was reminiscent of pepper spray (don't ask me how I know, but I would recommend that you never test out your pepper spray indoors). My husband fled the house with our toddler in tow. Between coughing fits, I poured the fiery solution over the pickles and left them on the counter to cool, before putting them in the fridge.

Less than an hour later I took out a jar to test a pickle and ended up eating the whole jar! They were spicy, crispy, and delicious!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Race Is On!

The garden was on life support all summer long, but the cooler temps and recent rain has revived the plants and now the questions are; will the banana peppers turn red? Will the Aunt Ruby's German Green Cherry turn gold? Will the recently planted Super Sugar Snap peas blossom and produce their deliciously crispy pods? Or will the first frost snatch them all?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Beautiful Song

My amazing Uncle Kevin composed this lovely song and I felt compelled to share it:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Paul Neyron Rose

Check out the huge blooms on this antique Paul Neyron Rose! That is a quarter that I am holding on the left.

This was the cabbage rose popular in the Victorian era. I think it looks like a peony. This rose survived the summer that we are now recovering from with just the occasional hand watering. I am planning to peg the canes which theoretically should cause an eruption of blooms.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rebar Arbor

In March when I was 7 months pregnant, I decided that I had to have a rebar arbor (nesting for me was about soaker hoses and timers) my lovely husband poured the concrete and held the ladder steady while I tottered at the top. I hope that the arbor will be smothered in the Zephirin Drouhin roses that I planted at each corner. Right now it is covered with Heavenly Blue morning Glories and Scarlet Cardinal Vines.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Feeling very disappointed with the progress of my Spring plantings, I took a picture of my front yard intending to redesign it. The picture above was taken in the beginning of September. Then the rain came and the flowers started blooming!

The courtyard was transformed as well...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First Tomato!

Today I harvested the first tomato of the season, a yellow pear. It was very mild and not as flavorful as some of the other tomatoes that I grow, but it was awfully cute. I am growing 30 different varieties of tomato this year and with the exception of Early Girl, they are all heirlooms. I will give regular updates on the taste and productivity of each as the season progresses. So far all of the plants look pretty good, except one sweetpea currant tomato that I had in a hanging basket. I think that it drowned in the rains that we have had this year. Thankfully, I have another one growing in one of my square foot boxes and it looks really happy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Garden Year Two

Here is a picture of our yard before and after. The before was taken in April 2008, the after in May 2009.

Artichokes are Blooming!

I grow artichokes just for the flowers and the architecture of the plants. I think that they are just spectacular when in bloom. These were planted from 1 gallon containers last fall.

Monday, April 20, 2009

These poppies are blooming in our courtyard.