Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lettuce Eat Sorrel

Is Sorrel the New Green?

Sorrel, not exactly a household word or on your regular shopping list. Yet this mysterious vegetable, veiled in acidity, carries a treasure-trove of citrusy notes. Of European origin, the domestic varieties grow year round in our neck of the woods. In spring however, the arrival of its wild relative triggers a refreshed enthusiasm for this curious leafy green.

Wild Sorrel, also known as Sheep Sorrel, casts itself randomly in the nooks and crannies of my landscape, a common weed with a distict acidic bite. Growing up, my kids called it sour grass. They roamed the property foraging the largest leaves, pairing it with bronze fennel sandwiched between layers, gobbling it up like an amuse-bouche. Foodies before their time or just plain hungry? Mama was busy in the garden and they were left candy deprived, craving the tangy tartness of the wild. Fine memories indeed...

French Sorrel has come of age at Voss Gardens. A hearty perennial, its broad leaves have transformed odd plots into lush boutique-ish beds. Sorrel is symbiotic with parsley, and once established, requires little maintenance - some cutting back once a year. The rest of the time it stands at attention, ready to yield its goodness, small leaves for salads, bigger ones for sauces. Baby slugs live to nosh on the stuff, but no worries, the teeny holes they leave behind will disappear into purees.

Red Veined Sorrel, aka Blood Veined, is a newbie this year and mingles cordially into the pastoral color scheme. A brilliant Looker, recently popularized by chefs adventuring into unfamiliar cultivars, but certainly not as pungent as its cousins. It makes a bloody good visual splash in a salad or a bold dash of color in a presentation.The micro greens will party up a plate. The red hues do turn, so if you like pink puree and poopy looking soup its all yours.

For cooking, I'm sticking with Frenchy, aka Rumix Scutatus.The ancient Greeks and Romans valued Sorrel for promoting digestion and considered it a good complement to rich, fatty meals.  Rich in potassium and vitamins C and A, its slightly acidic taste makes it a perfect base for a sauce. Sorrel is best raw and pureed, to which any number of ingredients can be added. Recipes abound on Google. It has great affinity with eggs and fish, but can generally accompany a wide range of vittles. Fresh Sorrel leaves chopped into a tangy chiffonade can scatter about like parsley or cilantro.

Warning! This Sorrel Pesto can be addictive devoured in dips, sandwiches, pasta, and pizza.
Omit the nuts and cheese and Voila!- a stunning sauce to drizzle on smoked salmon or kick up a salad

Sorrel Pesto
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh sorrel, ribs removed
 1/3 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
 1/4 cup pine nuts
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/4 cup olive oil
 In a food processor or blender puree the sorrel, the parsley, the garlic,
 the parmesan, the pine nuts and the oil, transfer the pesto to a jar with
 a tight fitting lid and chill it, covered. The pesto keeps, covered and
 chilled, for 2 weeks. Makes about 1 cup.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wherever I Go, There I Am

Back in the Garden again, even when I go away.

Urban agriculture shines on my list of Favorite Things.
It warms my heart to see human creativity put to the test of growing food in your neighborhood.
This garden thrives a few blocks from my son's apartment in the Emerald City.
 My visits always include a sojourn through the community pea patch.

The landscape juxtaposes old and new. The garden remains timeless.

Community members express individuality in their plots.
Recycled found objects can prove arty.

 A makeshift hoop house made of PVC pipe and cover cloth gives shelter from the storm.
Starting beds are covered with old newspaper until germination.
 No problem keeping things moist here.

I could wax poetic about compost.

Strange as it seems, there are days you need to collect rain water in Seattle.

Food and flowers, so happy together.

A hipster moment....

 Luv those black patent heels struttin' in the garden girrrl!

Country, City
Ain't it pretty?

The gates to a little chunk of heaven.

Thank you Seattle peapatchers! Keep up the good work!

Monday, April 16, 2012

If I Only Had a Brain

On occasion, gardeners take get aways and visit loved ones. Greetings from The Emerald City of Seattle, the land where sunny days put locals in a tizzy.  Wherever I go, the garden finds me, and I couldn't help whistling this song as we strolled through the Conservatory at Volunteer Park.

I could wile away the hours
Conferrin' with the flowers
Consultin' with the rain
And my head I'd be scratchin'
While my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April is the Cruelist Month

Why title a post with a quote from T. S. Eliot's, "The Waste Land?"
Because it describes a gardener's frustration with the tease of Spring.

From day one, April celebrates the fool. Disparity's displayed in a splash of contrasting images, trees of pink under skies of grey. Earth Day is hailed and its hailing. The sun shines through random downpours, whacko lightening strikes bridges, high winds bring short lived heat waves. The atmosphere twitterpates with one hundred and one shades of new green pumping up the air. Bulbs burst with fragrance. Migratory birds chirp their return. The hills are alive with forget-me-whats? Lent and all the Easter brouhaha are so over. Next?

Spring emerges painfully, testing patience with the delicious uncertainty of possibilities.

Cooks find solace in green garlic and sorrel sauces, but the gardener waits and rants,watching carefully fluffed soil turn to mud, tender seedlings stand up to torrential rains. Luscious greens are picked balancing a broken golf umbrella in one hand, plodding around in wet socks, baggy gortex pants and a clunky raincoat. That sassy Easter bonnet's been replaced by a sorry looking Indiana Jones hat.

Weeds thrive but its too wet to weed. Mudslides threaten, paths are uncertain. The grass sloshes like a wet sponge. Gutters are clogged. Drip is the soundtrack. Aphids are having a heyday while newly hatched insects look to set up camp. Smells of sopped redwood fill allergy inclined nostrils. No happy ducks frolicking around in the puddles. Construction projects are at a standstill.

The promises of Spring get muddled, and that can be cruel. Expectations cause all the angst, as they do in real life. Yet the silver lining rings true.  With patience, the showers bring the flowers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Garden Ergonomics

Lets face it, we're all getting older all the time, and with any luck, wiser.

Years of gardening, praying, and other reasons for squatting in homesteading conditions (use your imagination) have left me weak in the  knees. As the garden evolves, aside from infrastructural necessities like retaining walls, I look to design areas that moderate the knee bending.

Here I can garden standing up.

  Here I can garden sitting down.

The pots are on wheels so they can be repositioned for easy access,
 affectionately called "The Granny Garden." 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Vegan Power Balls

Follow up to the previous Apricot-Bourbon Mustard post.
 If apricots can get soaked, so can figs.
 On a besotted roll....

Most mornings, as soon as it becomes light or warm enough, I go outside. Often wearing my bathrobe, with a second cup of coffee in tow, the garden calls for my attention and I jump in. The aches and pains go away. Knowing a good breakfast would keep me going, I get too involved in a project or too dirty to stop. By the time my stomach juices are gnawing and dizziness sets in, I'll grab my go to breakfast in haste, chomping some raw oats and molasses to sooth the appetite. Odd choice, but anyone who knows me well, knows of my secret hankering for raw oats. A bona fide oat nut, cravings for them run deep in my bones. Something about their texture sticks to the ribs. Sweetened with molasses adds iron, minerals and B vitamins. A bowl keeps me going and going...
But when stormy weather sets in, this gardener must stay indoors and make time for Plan B, the kitchen.

Perusing the pantry for inspiration, it all started with an old bag of dried figs. In Santa Cruz slang, "Dude, they were like totally gnarly." Their sugars had crystallized, heightening sweetness but lowering visual appeal, sadly not eye candy. Catching a creative wave, I chopped them into raisin sized pieces, covered them with rum (yo ho ho) and put them aside, awaiting further instruction from the kitchen muse.

A myriad of ingredients step up to the plate and declare, "Play Ball!" My beloved oats form a team with other raw components. Cheering, "Let's Roll!" the idea of power balls hits a home run. They are singing something about take me out to the garden. . . I don't care if we never come back. (OASIS-Over Active Silly Imagination Syndrome.)

Voila! Breakfast Balls to go!  Easy, high energy bites that keep going and going and going...
The booze is just for flavor. Pour it off and save it for a rainy day.

Good to Go

makes 18 - 20 balls
1 cup chopped figs, soaked overnight in rum
rum, enough to cover the figs
2 cups raw oats
1/2 cup roasted slivered almonds, unsalted
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, unsalted
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt

pour off rum from the figs, combine all ingredients, tightly roll into ping-pong sized balls,
substitutions are always accepted, roll your own, store in fridge. Have a ball.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Apricot-Bourbon Mustard

Just in time for Easter.
Heavenly good in deviled Easter eggs.
Hella good schmeer on an Easter ham sandwich.

This recipe is inspired by Diane Morgan’s, “Gifts Cooks Love.”

Normally I prefer the more pungent brown mustard seeds but today I ran out of brown so mixed yellow. When I fell short of apricots I slipped in a few golden raisins. Go Figure.

Apricot Bourbon Mustard

Fills four 6 ounce jars, perfect little gifts

1 c brown mustard seeds
1 c bourbon (The better the bourbon the better the mustard)
1 c water
1 c packed, chopped dried apricots
5 T cider vinegar
5 T honey
1 T kosher salt

Put the mustard seeds in a bowl, pour in bourbon and water, soak overnight.
Add the apricots and soak for another 12 hours.
Strain mixture and reserve liquid.
In a food processor pulse all ingredients to desired consistency, adding remaining liquid as needed. (I like the seeds half cracked for full hot flavor, and half whole to retain the grainy texture.)
Distribute among clean jars, wiping rims and securing lids. Best refrigerated for at least 2 weeks to allow the flavors to develop and mature. It will thicken as it sits. Keeps up to 3 months.

Normally I would wait out the aging process, but I'm going to jump the gun for Easter Brunch.
 My party won't mind.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Zen and the Art of Garden Maintainance

These year old Russian Red Kale stalks aroused my artistic bent and I just couldn't toss them. They lay piled and waiting for a walk by whim. Sparked by a recent reunion with Steven Simon, master sculptor in residence at Montalvo, and there I was on the ground playing impromptu Lincoln Logs. Somehow their temple like juxtaposition with a cherry tree in bloom inspired a Moment of Zen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


A romantic would define "sympatico" as a compatible relationship.
 It perfectly describes fava beans and garlic.
Favas feed nitrogen into the soil. Garlic takes nitrogen out.
Plant them together and win win.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Catch of the Day

Monday, April 2
plant out flat of shelling peas in assorted beds
cage pea plants in Gabe Bed/left and center
take out purple mizuna, Wall 2
take out arugula, kitchen bed
harvest for chef
Tuesday, April 3
seed plant arugula, shaker method, Cherry and Experimental Bed
plant out orach and tuscan kale, Wall 2
plant out orach and russian kale, Gabe Bed/left (kale between white radish)
plant out red lettuce, Long Bed
weed around Bed 5
organize seeds in New Room
Wednesday, April 4
plant out broccoli in Sam Bed
plant out red kale in Bed 4, Willow Bed/front, Scottie Bed/end
plant out flowering kale, Scottie Bed/end
thin poppies in Ray Bed
thin larkspur in Lion Bed, move to kitchen stairs
move terra cotta pots from front door to Man Garden (Randall)
transplant Lavender and Dusty Miller from tc pots to kitchen stairs
clean out and manure Kitchen Bed/front
Thursday, April 5
prepare row of 15 gallon pots for kitchen garden/front
prep kitchen garden/front, move lavender plant to stairs, scuffle hoe
plant out Wasabi Arugula in kitchen pots
plant out blue kale in kitchen garden/front
water yesterday's transplants
Friday, April 6
owee! tweeked back lugging those 15gal pots
Saturday, April 7
seed plant arugula, shaker method, front garden bed, cover
seed plant arugula cross breed, shaker method, front garden pots, cover
transplant chives into pots
start mini tray of micro greens
prep bed 4 for more kale
harvest beets and cauliflower for dinner
Monday, April 9
harvest for chef
plant out kale in Bed 3
take out Russian Kale, Level 2/wall, amend
plant out kale, Level 2/wall
plant out Lupins in Ray Bed and Lion Bed
take covers off arugula in Experimental and Cherry Tree beds, 6 days
Tuesday, April 10
harvest 5# salad for Niki's dinner
April 11-18
raining and away to Seattle
Friday, April 20
fire up irrigation
start in flats: cukes -Persian and space savers, romanesco zucchini, beans -purple, yellow, green,
pumpkins, delicata squash, eggplant, cantaloupe, red veined amaranth, replant hibiscus
harvest purple cauliflower
Saturday, April 21
start in flats: scarlet runner beans, zinnias, yellow cosmos, sunflowers(hopefully red), nasturtiums,
Sunday, April 22
start to thin and transplant lettuce, too hot
landscape new back entrance to top level, fix fence, plant agaves
Monday, April 23
Harvest for chef
take out all chard except Gabe Bed, cut back
take out spinach, Edge/level 2
thin arugula beds for microgreens
Tuesday, April 24
new gardener working little farm, turn and bring in manure
transplant lettuces out of Bed 3 to top level
work beds on top, set up cages for sr beans
took sc runner beans out of New Room to harden off
Wednesday, April 25
plant out parsley on top
Thursday, April 26
plant out sc runner beans in cages on top (big starts)
transplant lettuces from Beds 3and 5 to top
sluggo on Level 2 wall, replace ravaged lettuces
get fish heads from Jimmy, freeze
Friday, April 27
buy tomato starts-12
Saturday, April 28
transplant tomatoes into 6" pots, rearrange New room shelves for them
Monday, April 30
thin arugula in Kitchen Bed for microgreens