Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December in my garden

Still waiting for the rain this December, but it's cooled off (this week) after having a 90° Thanksgiving. A friend of a friend needed to rehome their chickens (all my chickens are rescues), so we just added 3 to our flock. Meet Nutmeg, Eggnog, and Anise!

Eggnog (a Leghorn), Nutmeg (a speckled Sussex), and Anise (an Autralorp)

They are young ladies, so hopefully that means we'll get some eggs soon. Most of our flock are somewhere around 8 years old so they are retired (or freeloaders).  And all of them have molted and stopped laying for the winter, so we'll see how they do in the Spring...

Plan
Start drooling over seed catalogs! Baker Creek heirloom rare seeds is my favorite (such beautiful varieties! I have a strong penchant for purple vegetables 😊) and San Diego Seed Company is local. But honestly, last year I did better with seedlings.
Other good resources for research and learning:


Prep
Amend hugelkultur beds with compost. Rake out chicken area for mulch. Let the chickens into more areas of the yard to eat grubs and dig up all the grasses that have grown back (after I spent so much time trying to remove that bermuda grass! 😠)

Plant
Broccoli seedlings from City Farmers interspersed with garlic cloves from Schaner Farm did so well for me last year, I'll do it again this month.
artichokes (mine's already a big healthy plant from last year's planting), asparagus (maybe next year), beets, broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, celery, cilantro, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, potatoes, radish, parsnips, garlic, wildflower seeds, natives (I need a cleveland sage - it's my favorite), cover crops (fava & peas)

Feed
Feed passion fruit 3 pounds of fruit tree fertilizer. I can't believe it's still flowering and fruiting.

Water
Water deep in the morning every 10-14 days if it doesn't rain. I'll continue to blast my fruit trees with water a couple times this month to help control ants, aphids, white fly & scale.

Prune
Prune grapes (I'm going to weave trimmed vines in the shade structure over the windows to create more summer shade) and blackberries. Deadhead the lavender and aroma sage. Trim back mulberry (one of the big branches will be repurposed for passionfruit vine support), guava and pepper tree by mid-December so as not to disturb the birdie nest building that will start soon. Chop up trimmings (if not used in other projects) for mulch.

Harvest
copious guavas, passion fruit, calamondins, the last of the tomatoes, winter squash, basil, parsley, thyme, chives, lavender, lemon grass, rose geranium leaves

Friday, November 24, 2017

Embracing the Casserole: Sweet Potato Gratin

I'm not usually one for casseroles, but I wanted to try an alternative to my usual twice-baked sweet potatoes.

Not everyone wants a whole half of a sweet potato, so this version allows folks to take the portion that they want and hopefully will decrease food waste.  It's also less labor intensive and takes up less space in the oven.

3 pounds sweet potatoes (I like garnet), peeled and sliced thin
2 tablespoons butter from Spring Hill
2 cup shallots, thinly sliced from Schaner Farm
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced, from Schaner Farm
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cream
1 cup whole milk
8 ounces gruyere cheese, grated

Melt butter in small skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and stir frequently until lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add rosemary and cook 1 minute more. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Layer the sweet potato with the shallots in a 9x12-inch buttered pan, seasoning with salt & pepper as you go. Add cream & milk. Cover and bake until they soften, about 30 minutes. Top with cheese and bake uncovered a golden crust has formed, about 20 minutes.

Makes 8-10 servings

Thursday, November 9, 2017

November in my garden

In San Diego, November is really my month to transition the garden from summer to fall. My tomatoes and passion fruit are still flowering and fruiting.


The chickens are molting and haven't been laying for weeks. Fire season is over (hopefully) and so far it's getting cooler. Will this month be hot or will it start raining? While we don't know yet, here are my gardening plans for this month:

Plan
Visit botanical gardens for ideas and research before planting.

Prep
Sharpen & oil tools.
Compost fallen fruit (or better yet, preserve it before it feeds the rats).
Rake out old mulch & dead leaves around non-native bushes and shrubs. Spread compost, keeping it away from the trunks.

Plant (as long as it's cooled down)
My hugelkultur beds are spent from tomatoes so I'll be sure to rotate in some nitrogen fixers and leafy crops:
artichokes (already came back from last year's plant), asparagus (maybe next year), beets, broccoli (definitely - I had broccoli for 6 months last year), brussels, cabbage, carrots, celery, cilantro, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, potatoes, radish, parsnips, garlic, wildflower seeds, natives, perennial herbs

Fertilize
Feed roses low-nitrogen fertilizer. (I've got a climber here I've been trying to rehab since roses are edible)

Water
Make sure garden receives an inch of rain (or make up the difference – water in morning). I'll also blast my fruit trees with water a couple times this month to help control ants, aphids, white fly & scale.

Prune
Lightly prune rose. Cut back blackberries. Trim back mulberry, guava and pepper tree. Now is the time before the birdies start to build their nests.

Harvest
guavas, passion fruit, pomegranates, calamondins, tomatoes, winter squash, basil, parsley, thyme, chives, lavender, lemon grass, rose geranium leaves

Thursday, September 7, 2017

POG juice & passion fruit superbloom

Wow, my passion fruit is prolific! After not getting any fruit the first year I planted it, this summer we hand-pollinated all the flowers, which bloomed all of May and June.


It wasn't too daunting a task as there were only a handful of flowers a day, 12 at the most. We started reaping the bountiful harvest in early August. After a heat wave and then a touch of rain, here we are in early in September, the plant is covered in ripening fruit, and now has 30-50 flowers a day!

Passion fruit is a heavy feeder (I fertilize it every month that it's flowering/fruiting) and drinker (but hey, what am storing this rainwater for?).  It felt like the fruit would never ripen - but of course it did; they fall off the vine when they're ready - how convenient! Thanks, Mother Nature!

Juicing the fruit is pretty easy: cut in half, scoop out the flesh into a mesh stainer, and use a rubber spatula to stir and press the juice out (this process is faster than it sounds).

I planted passion fruit because I wanted to make POG - passion orange guava juice. I use a 1:1:1 ratio of oranges to passion fruit to small guavas. For the guava, I peel and seed the fruit and blend it with the passion and orange juice.




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Summer Garden Enchiladas

When corn and tomatoes and summer squash are all in season together - the height of the summer harvest - I make a lot of calabacitas. But when the tomatillos ripen, time for enchiladas!


1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
a few baby summer squash with blossoms, sliced
a cob of sweet corn, kernels sliced off
sunflower oil
sea salt
2 1/2 cups roasted tomatillo-tomato salsa
corn tortillas
1/2 pound jack cheese, grated

Saute the onion in the oil with a bit of salt on medium-high heat until they start to soften, stirring constantly. Add in the squash, again cooking until slightly soft; then add the corn and blossoms and turn off the heat.

In a casserole dish, spread a thin layer (about 1/2 cup) of the sauce. Add a layer of tortillas, then layer all the veggies, then 1/3 of the cheese and another 1/2 cup of sauce. Add another layer of torillas, pour on the rest of the sauce and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts, then broil until golden and bubbly.

Serve with black or pinto beans, garnish with avocado, salsa fresca & hot sauce.

Salsa Fresca
Mix together:
several small tomatoes, chopped
1/8 red onion, diced
a handful of cilantro, chopped
a chile of your choice, finely diced
a few pinches of sea salt
a splash of apple cider vinegar

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Homegrown Roasted Tomatillo-Tomato Salsa


My first time successfully growing tomatillos! Along with my homegrown tomatoes, garlic and cilantro, it's so satisfying to grow almost all the ingredients in this salsa! Now if I can just get my chile plants to produce...

1 1/2 pounds of tomatillos, peeled
several blue beauty tomatoes
1 large head garlic cloves, peeled
2 poblano chiles from Schaner Farm
1 bunch fresh cilantro, including stems
1/2 tsp sea salt, more or less to taste

Roast tomatillos, tomatoes, garlic and chiles on a baking sheet under a 400 degree broiler until blistered and soft (10-20 minutes), turning chiles as needed. Cool & peel tomatoes and chiles. Transfer to blender, including juice, and add cilantro and salt. Blend to a course puree.

Makes about 4 cups - if this is too much, freeze or can some of the puree for later.

This is a great sauce for enchiladas!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Almond Milk

"The hardest part about being vegan is having to wake up at 5am to milk all the almonds."

There's a lot of basic almond recipes out there and this is the version I make for my spouse. He loves cereal but his tummy can't handle processed dairy milk. And I'm quite happy to help us decrease our dairy intake.

1 cup raw unpasteurized almonds from Terra Bella Farm
spring water
2 1/2 medjool dates (or to taste)
a goodly pinch of sea salt
1/2 inch vanilla bean pod or a teaspoon of vanilla extract

Soak almonds in spring water for 12-24 hours (this makes the milk creamier).

In a blender, add almonds and enough water to measure 4 cups. Add dates and salt. Blend on high for 2 minutes. Strain with cheesecloth, or better yet, a linen napkin (this part takes forever because I want to squeeze all the liquid I can out of the cheesecloth - save that almond paste for other recipes). Scrape vanilla bean seeds into the milk and shake to combine.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups. Lasts about 3 days.