Thursday, June 7, 2018

Purple Jalapeño Hot Sauce

I've been meaning to pick these beautiful, dark purple jalapeños for a while but it's serendipitous that I didn't because now this hot sauce is flavorful with dissipating heat and a natural sweetness from purple jalapeños that ripened into red.

7 small-medium jalapeños, stemmed and rough chopped
2 scallions, chopped, also from the garden
1 huge garlic clove, smashed & chopped, from Schaner Farm
1/2 cup vinegar (I used champagne vinegar cuz that's what I had on hand)
juice of 1 small lime, from Good Taste Farm
1 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree a few minutes until smooth.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Marinated artichoke hearts from the garden

With more artichokes than I know what to do with...
I can make my own marinated artichoke hearts!

I love to eat them straight out of the jar but they can be a bit pricey and hard to find them organic. The hardest (well, time-consuming) part was prepping the artichokes down to the soft, completely edible part.  I would do well to pick them earlier and much smaller next time.

I was pretty unsatisfied with the recipes I found online so here's what I can up with:

artichokes (the younger the better)
juice if a lemon

Half fill a pot with water and add the lemon juice. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, snap off the outer leaves until you reach the tender inner leaves. Cut off tough or bottom sharp parts of leaves, trim and peel the stem, and trim any dark green or tough skin from the base. Cut the artichoke into quarters or eights (depending on size), cut away any visible choke and place in the lemon water.

Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer for about 10 minutes, until the artichokes are barely tender.

For each 1 1/2 cups of processed artichokes:

1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, sliced 
a pinch or 2 of red chile pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
1 sprig fresh oregano
1/8 teaspoon peppercorns
a bay leaf
long curl of lemon zest
juice of a lemon
1/4 cup white wine or champagne vinegar

In a small saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat and add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the oil, along with the salt, herbs, zest and vinegar. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Remove all the herbs and spices and transfer them to a 12-ounce jar. Stuff jar with the artichoke pieces and pour on the rest of the oil & vinegar mixture. Add just enough water to cover. Top with a tightly fitting lid, let cool and refrigerate. Let them cure for at least a day, turning occasionally to mix the flavors. Remove from fridge and allow to come to room temp before serving.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Discovering my Ancestral Roots Chili

I feel like such a curandera, with all my spices and backyard herbs, using mostly indigenous ingredients, channeling my tartara abuelita, stirring an aromatic pot of thick, bubbling beany pot liquor. I'm glad I can grow harder-to-find herbs like mexican oregano.

Here's a chili half-way between my black bean chili and chicana power chili beans from Decolonize your Diet:

1 cup dried beans (black, tiger, mayocoba...), sorted, rinsed, and soaked in spring water overnight
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped (from Schaner Farm via the Little Italy Farmers Market)
1-2 mild chiles (such anaheim, pasilla, or poblano - or maybe a jalapeño if you like it spicy), chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried (preferably mexican) oregano or a couple teaspoons fresh from the herb spiral
cayenne to taste (start with a pinch, if you're wimpy; up to 1/4 teaspoon if you like it spicy)
1½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
3 large cloves garlic, minced (from Schaner or Sage Mt Farm)
¾ cup tomato, fresh chopped or crushed canned in glass
juice of a small orange from mom's backyard
sea salt (about 1 teaspoon)

Sauté the onion, chile, and spices in the oil in a medium pot on medium-low heat until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring (do not brown). Add garlic and tomato and cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Add orange juice and beans (drained well) and cover with spring water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat for a low simmer and cook covered until soft, about 2 hours. Salt to taste. Serve with skillet cornbread.

Garnish Options: jack cheese (from Spring Hill), avocado, cilantro, green onions

Monday, April 30, 2018

April in my garden

I'm thinking about where I'll find a nice patch of sun for my little tomato and pepper seedlings.

I mounded up my potato plants. I deadheaded lavender and spreading calendula from ripe seed heads. I'll be clearing mulch from the chicken yard and adding to to my hugel mounds for the cool-season crops. I'm adding support structures to all my tomatoes and twine for grapevines.

I've got to empty out my freezer to make room for this year's crop.  I'll be bringing last year's remaining mulberries to my favorite local restaurant, Tribute Pizza, so they can work their magic and make them into lovely desserts or drinks.
I'm so happy carefully caring for my tiny tomato seedlings!  They all sprouted and are doing well. I credit keeping them (and the water bottle I often spritz them with) right on the kitchen counter in front of a window so I'm looking right at them all day: tomatoes - Brad's Atomic GrapeDark Galaxy, Green Zebra & Cherokee Purple from a 2016 seed exchange, Black Vernissage from last year's Earth Day seed swap, seeds saved from a brown & green paste tomato from a grocery store last year, and small red cherry seeds I've had a while from who knows where - and chiles/peppers.

Seed Saving
As I focus more on growing from seed, I'm also focusing on saving seeds. This month: calendula


I'm diligently pulling them up as they sprout, mostly while I'm in the garden watering or hanging out, a few here or there when I see them. But I'm also thinking about leaving some dandelions for their permaculture contributions.


My little tomato and chile seedlings aren't quite big enough to plant yet.
Also good to plant this month: radish, beets, carrots, corn, cucumber, lettuce, bush beans, melon, eggplant, winter & summer squash, okra, warm-season flowers (cosmos, marigold, sunflower), ginger, herbs

Fertilize citrus, avo, tomato, rose & orchids in waning moon

We've had cloudy days and I'm still hoping for rain. Water deep in the morning every 10-14 days if it doesn't rain, more often for new seedlings.

Pick off any caterpillars, slugs and snails. Blast off ants, aphids, white fly & scale.

All my tomato plants are doing so well! I've trimmed any leaves that are touching the ground, all growth in the 4-6 inches and any suckers.

Here's what I'm harvesting...
mulberries! artichokes, sugar snap peas, roses, calla lilies, guavas, cilantro, eggs, arugula, tangerines, eureka lemons, nasturtiums, calendulas, parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, lavender, lemon grass, rose geranium, lemon verbena, elderberry flowers, white sage

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Death in the garden

If I am lucky, I will bury all of my chickens. Digging a hole is a lot of work so I may as well plant a tree or bush and turn them into flowers. Today I'm planting mexican oregano in honor of Amapola, the Plymouth Rock who seemed to enjoy standing up to the bullying of our little dog, Jasper, always pecking him through the fence between them.

There is no life without death. I garden, at least in part, to be close to the death and suffering that sustains my existence. And if I can produce my own food, I can try to decrease the amount of death and suffering that goes into my food. I don't use poisons or killing traps. I share my crops with the wild critters who need to eat to survive. I tend to use a fork instead of a shovel to dig in the earth, because more worms are cut by my shovel than by my fork. I keep chickens that needed rehoming, and when they stop laying I can appreciate their soil-building contributions, weed- and pest-control, their soft noises, beautiful feathers, and their antics.

...and neither do chickens.

calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

March in my garden

thyme, nasturtium, calla lily, elderberry, lavender, sour grass, rose geramium,
johnny jump-up, california poppy, arugula, rose 'purple splash', calendula
While most of my wildflowers are still tiny little seedlings, I have many (mostly edible) blooms in my garden to herald the coming of spring!

I love adding edible flowers to dishes - in salads and drinks, decorating desserts and platters - they make food look so special.

But if I could only plant one thing, it would be tomatoes. We have lovely farmers markets and San Diego county has more farmers (and more organic farmers) than anywhere else in the country. But there's few things that taste better than homegrown tomatoes.

I do much better with seedlings, and I want to plant interesting varieties with top notch flavor so I head to Tomatomania for a pretty epic selection. While they didn't have the Gardener's Delight cherry tomato that did so well for us last year, I still came home with an exciting selection:
But they didn't have a couple specific varieties I wanted so I bought some seeds online at Baker's Creek that look pretty phenomenal so hopefully I can manage to grow from seed this year. I also bought non-tomato seeds at City Farmers Nursery from San Diego Seed Co (chiles and basil). I'm thinking about where to place new beds for my summer garden, how I'll be rotating my existing beds to grow as many tomatoes as possible this summer, and whether I should have some top soil and compost delivered for new beds.

I've been wanting to build a circular series of beds with a simple rock bubbling fountain in the middle so we'll see if I make any progress on that this year.

I'm also thinking about how I might add a small lily pond, but that's more of a dream than a plan.

I've readied my westmost hugel mound for tomatoes and I have materials to build tomato supports. I'm harvesting the mulch and bedding from the chicken coop and yard for mulching the garden beds.

I'm going to be more diligent this year with caring for the seeds I'm trying to start:
tomatoes -
and chiles/peppers -


Now is the time - don't wait!  The ground is soft and moist, making it easy to pull them and they're still pretty small and haven't gone to seed.  Do it! Do it now!


I've planted many tomatoes with their companions (marigolds, green onion, garlic, basil, carrots), sugar snap peas (a nitrogen fixer), and direct seeded sunflowers, loofah & melons (a bit early so we'll see how that goes).

Also good to plant this month: radish, beets, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, potatoes, greens, green beans, corn, turnip, cucumber, squash, citrus, avocado, macadamia, dill, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, dahlias, and the last chance this year for natives.

Fertilize citrus, avo, orchids, 3# on passionfruit, everything (except natives and drought tolerant) in the waning moon.

I'm grateful for continued rain!
Water deep in the morning every 10-14 days if it doesn't rain, more often for new seedlings. I'm blasting my fruit trees (that aren't flowering) with water a couple times this month to help control ants, aphids, white fly & scale.

I'm pinching off new growth on the grape vines below the trellis to concentrate the energy into the growth to cover the top of the trellis.

Here's what I'm harvesting...
eggs, arugula, tangerines, eureka lemons, nasturtiums, calendulas, parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, lavender, lemon grass, rose geranium, lemon verbena, elderberry flowers

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Balsamic Caramelized Onion Jam

1/4 cup olive oil
6 medium-sized yellow onions, quartered and sliced thin, from Schaner Farm
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, minced, from my backyard
2 teaspoons whole grain dijon mustard
1/4 cup sucanat, rapadura, or other brown sugar
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (I used a sweet, syrupy type; you could also use a dark one)

Heat the oil over medium heat, stir in onion, thyme and sea salt; cook covered, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until soft and golden. Reduce heat to low, stir in mustard, sugar and vinegar; simmer for 15 minutes or until reduced to jam consistency.

Makes about 2 cups

adapted from The Produce Companion