Tag Archives: greens

Communing in the gardens.

Scaly Rustgills under my fig tree.

Late this morning the sun came out again, and shined on all the droplets of dew and fog. I had a date to keep in town, but I noticed through the window that the fountain was dripping instead of flowing, so I went out to put the hose in there for a few minutes. Of course I saw many glowing leaves and caught the scent of decay. How can decomposition smell so fresh, and how does the earth’s breathing wake up my whole body?

Lavender under a net.

I took a few pictures and then I was happy to be on my way, on to the community garden to meet my friend Bella where we have been together a few times before.  Strolling through other people’s gardens is thoroughly relaxing and nourishing; lots of interest and no responsibility. A garden comprised of dozens of gardens, each with its special personality, is even better.

Often we get to take home some treats, for immediate food or for seeds. Bella found ears of corn lying in the path, and she showed me where a few beans hung from a trellis, the seeds somehow still dry and clean inside the mildewed pods. How could I not bring a few home to try? The way those beans offered themselves suggested a small planting, which is not intimidating. And they are intriguing Mystery Beans to me as yet; does anyone here know what kind they are? Such a dreamy-creamy color…  (below).

After my first big greenhouse planting project last winter, and the way so many of my starts did not take off, or for various reasons never bore fruit in my own garden, I am ready this spring to try just a few things, a few seeds…. a more minimalist garden.

What if my pumpkins had been successful, and I’d ended up with half a dozen of those gorgeous French cucurbits such as I roasted yesterday? They would have been too heavy for me to lug around the neighborhood as gifts.

I picked a bagful of meaty, rainwashed collard leaves from Bella’s plot, and the sweetest parsley ever from the free-for-all borders. The calendulas I gave my friend last spring are still blooming there under the collard canopy, and looking wintery — the sun may be bright on days like today, but its rays are sharply slanted, and every image is darkened by shadows.

Another plot owner was there with his teenage daughter, whose name I didn’t learn, but I will call her Maria. They gave me cilantro from their bed, a generous bunch of it, which I’m sure was the most fragrant I’ve ever got a whiff of, just picked after being hydrated for weeks. Maria came to talk to me while I was bent over the parsley, and we chatted about cooking. She filled me in on the hearty ham-and-eggs meal she had helped to make for breakfast this Saturday morning, and agreed that cooking for only oneself the way I do would be difficult.

Her father José talked about how his children don’t like to come to the garden with him. Maria explained, “We never want to bother getting out of bed and going outside unless something is happening that day, if we are going somewhere or people are coming over….” She smiled when I said, “Oh, but things are happening here: the plants are busy growing!”

Today, of course, was unlike any other, and I felt the restfulness of January, and cautioned how it would not even be a good idea to pull weeds when the soil was so wet. Maria and her father seemed quite contented. She may have had the same unconscious rejuvenating response in her body and psyche that Bella and I were having, being in the open air surrounded by trees and grass, fava bean plants and every kind of brassica exhaling oxygen. And Maria did get to be with people.

After our new friends left, Bella and I wandered up and down the rows, admiring every leftover bit of life, such as two tiny bright red peppers clinging to dead stick stems. We examined a banana tree that appeared to have been stricken by frost, but we hoped not killed. And we sat at a picnic table listening to the tinkle of the wind chimes, as hummingbirds swooped back and forth over our heads. It was a simple gift of a day.

How I saved my greens.

I’m ashamed to think of how much cilantro has gone bad in my fridge over the years. I love it, and so I buy a fresh bunch from time to time, which isn’t usually that pricey, but still, when it goes into the trash slimy and blackening, it’s a sad waste. 😦

Today I was busying myself cooking up vegetables that came in my CSA (community supported agriculture) box, and I came to the bunch of cilantro… Hmm… Maybe I had planned to combine that with tomatoes and peppers to make more Indian Egg Bhurji. But — No tomatoes were in the house, and I didn’t want to spend time de-stemming cilantro anyway. (I must need a special prayer to pray while I am doing that perfectly lovely job that seems so tedious. That’s what Kate told me to do about my boring floor exercises.)

An idea came to me when I saw the bag of arugula I’d bought yesterday — also something that I love, which I probably thought I’d put in a green salad, if I could get around to washing the lettuce… When I was a child, the task of preparing the large, leafy-green salad that without fail was part of our evening meal always fell to us children. I always wonder if I am harboring a childish rebelliousness deep in my psyche, that makes me resist salad-making, too.

The thought that occurred was, Could I make a sauce or pesto by combining arugula and cilantro? I’m not confident enough as a chef to go right at it, so I looked online and found that many people had done just that, with great variations. I customized mine to be fast-friendly (vegan) and not too lemony, and to use more arugula than cilantro, because I had a lot more of that leaf on hand. I kept the ingredients list short, and didn’t add garlic or pepper because the greens are both pretty flavorful already.

Here is what I came up with. All the amounts below are approximate. Many people like their pesto less thick, and will add more oil. Before washing the cilantro, I cut off the longest stems while they were still tied together in a bunch, but left the rest of the stems for the food processor to deal with. No de-stemming by hand!

SAVE the GREENS PESTO

3 cups packed cilantro
4 1/2 cups packed arugula
1/3 cup sunflower oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup toasted walnut pieces

Grind the walnuts in the food processor and then add the other ingredients to make a paste, adding more oil or salt or lemon to taste.

Until today I never paid much attention to all those “pestos” made from everything but the classic basil-olive oil-Parmesan combination, but recently I learned how to make Tarragon Salsa Verde from Jo, and found it very adaptable and always delicious. (I have planned to share my results with you but this recipe pushed ahead in line.)

I think its versatility gave me the hope that other green things could work together the same way. And they did indeed form something easy that saved us, greens and human, from possible shame, and added another tasty and healthy item to my menu options. Now I can spread my salad on crackers!

Back to my happiest place…

gl2 P1040417This afternoon I returned from a short road trip, and within a few minutes I’d taken a stroll around the garden to see what changes might be evident. I hoped that the newly planted items had made it through the weekend without my attentions, and they had.

The Terra Cotta yarrow has begun to bloom, and it looks pretty against the blue pincushion flowers nearby. In a month the rows of lavender bushes will all be flowering in contrast as well, but already one variety is starting to open enough that a fat black bee was checking it out.P1040414

 

The vegetables have not stopped growing huge — just what magic is in this custom mix of dirt for planting boxes? I’ve never grown or even seen such lush and large leaves of kale and Romaine lettuce.

 

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Just the day before my trip I had set out  a flat of flower and vegetable starts, including this feathery fennel and two zinnias. I always like some zinnias mixed in with vegetables. In the garden, that is.

That’s rice straw mulching the fennel; another task I had completed the day before my trip was to wrangle a bale of the stuff out of my Subaru and into the back yard so that I could at least tuck it in around the tiniest plants for protection against drying out while I was gone.gl2 P1040422

 

 

It’s surprising how several of the Iceland poppies are still flowering even in the warming weather, no doubt encouraged by having lately enjoyed several spells of cool rain, and by the well-drained soil that they reportedly appreciate. Usually they don’t make it through the summer around here….

 

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Lovage towers above leeks and parsley.

The happiness of being home in my garden again gave me the energy to actually use some of my produce; I picked a dozen kale leaves and cooked a mess of greens in the pressure cooker, to go with my eggs for dinner.

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Water music for workers and for hospitality.

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plum

Last week I felt such relief from having a load lifted from my mind, I was immediately energized to prune the plum trees. These are the Elephant Heart plums that I had to buy two of after all. You might remember that I polled the neighbors to see if anyone had a Santa Rosa plum or an Elephant Heart to be the pollinator for mine. Several did, but then I found out that the helper tree would have to be within 50-100 feet of whatever I planted in my space. That is, next door. Which they weren’t.

A pruned tree might not be a lovely thing if it were not demonstrating a great success to the pruner, that of surmounting my fears and inadequacies and ignorance and getting it accomplished. Landscape Lady had given me some tips, and then I rgl P1030363 pruned plumead quite a bit online and printed off some pictures and advice about how many inches between scaffold branches and what percentage of the length of the branch to cut off, etc. — things I don’t already know from pruning ornamentals.

The relief I felt was over the completion of my fountain project. This was another story that was in process when I thought it was done, because the first fountain was found to be defective. The finish peeled off in big flakes before it had been here two months. The tasks of getting my money back and getting it taken away was hard enough, and then the shopping for a new one… I needed the help of two friends two days in a row to find what I wanted, and praise the Lord it was one I could buy right there, and have it set up within a few days. gl P1030392 hospitality

Now we garden workers and garden sitters can enjoy the accompaniment of the fountain song again. And I think I like this new one better than the first. I learned that the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality, which made me happy, because I want my new garden to be a place where I can be hospitable to my friends, both human and animal. If you look closely you can see the bell of bird seed on a pole in the distance behind the fountain, a gift to the birds from Kit.

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Kit is also pruning, the wisteria, right at this moment while the warm air and the water music come in the open windows to where I am typing. I told her to prune it hard, that she couldn’t kill it, and she climbed up on the arbor and has given it a drastic haircut. Maybe the towhees won’t think us very hospitable for taking away a nice platform for their nests.

 

The last few days have been downright balmy. So when I finished pruning I did more things, like planting a succulent and a thyme plant, and weeding in the front yard. And taking pictures of buds.

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I dearly love the viburnum buds that come out the end of January, two-by-two along their gracefully curving stems. Even the dwarf pomegranate bushes have buds, which I was not sure about when I first saw them last week. I bent down to trim the ends of the tangly branches, and saw red dots that looked like mites, they were so tiny and bright; now they are easier to recognize for what they are, bold upspringings of pomegranate life. I have to use my hand as a background in order to get the camera to focus.gl P1030378 pom buds

This season when sprouts come up and out of everywhere — I never can get used to it! I will have to write about it every year.

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This week I made another bold move: to phone the “Oriental Gardener” who leaves flyers around the neighborhood from time to time advertising his services. I got a bid from him for pruning the osmanthus at the front of the house. It has dead wood from drought damage, and needs to be reduced in size. He will do it tomorrow, so I took a Before picture this afternoon.

 

 

 

Housemate Susan told me that she used some kale from the front yard recently, and that pleased me very much, because I have not eaten one leaf of all the greens I planted last fall. While I was waiting for the Oriental Gardener to come by I picked my own bowlful of collards and Swiss chard and am looking forward to a good mess of greens real soon.

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