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September 22, 2009

September in the Garden - or The Promise of Things to Come

By the middle of September (here in California) anyone hoping to harvest vegetables for the winter table should have an array of little starts that are ready to plant.

I always look on these little guys as the 'promise of things to come', and get attached to them I imagine, like 4Hers must get attached to their animals. Although as a vegetarian, I would not be able to turn my friends over to the slaughter house. However I am very capable of harvesting veggies when the time comes.

I want to share some of the excitement of the new growth in my garden.

Below are teeny leek starts popping up out of the soil. It took a while before I could recognize them as something I had planted and not weeds. They take a long time to come to harvest - 120 days.

litle_leeks.jpg

The peas I planted did not germinate well - or so I thought, so I planted some more to fill in the gaps, when I discovered the problem. I was happily planting seed peas, and squirrels were happily digging holes to bury their winter supply of nuts and seeds. They dug up more than a few of the peas that I had planted. I found a pea lying on the top of the soil and little holes dug everywhere, which gave me the clue.

peas.jpg

I am thankful for the cool weather of the fall because there is nothing like fresh spinach straight from the garden! The baby spinach plants have a strange look when they first emerge.

spinach.jpg

Waiting to be planted are; cauliflower, broccoli, kale, nasturtiums and calendula. I have been chasing a cabbabge white butterfly around the yard trying to shoo it away from my brassicas!

starts.jpg

Tip of the season: if you are thinning out your starts or transplanys, don't throw them in the compost but add them to your salad. They are full of taste and healthy vitamins.


September 16, 2009

The Little Squash Plant That Could

I get asked a lot why I like to work in the garden. Fresh organic produce can be bought at local health food supermarkets, fruit stands and of course the local farmers market. But eating healthy food straight out of the garden is only one of the perks that come with gardening. This morning I happened to see a yellow crookneck squash that I had planted back in May, from a plant that I bought from a nursery. So the life span of this squash plant is very close to over. In human years it is an octogenarian at the least!

This particular plant had already almost out produced every other squash in the garden, and back in August I had cut off all the brown and dead looking leaves - as I find them unattractive - so now it has a long bare stem of about 18", and is happily producing more baby crook necks, and new, green leaf growth, looking like a small fountain of green and yellow at the end of a snake.

squash_keeps_on.jpg
New, green leaf growth looking like a small fountain of green and yellow at the end of a snake.

This little squash plant reminded me of why I garden. Not just for the wonderful healthy vegetables, but for all the many rewards that come after a little time in the yard. There is exercise from digging, walking, pulling etc that adds to the daily exercise quota; the energy from inspiration, when you have an idea about a new bed or discover a new plant; the spiritual feeling of oneness with nature; the observation of living creatures that have homes out there in the 'outside' of your house; and the meditation of silence. The garden keeps on giving in every season - just like the "Little Squash That Could".

September 4, 2009

Tef's Taziki - or what to do with all the excess cukes!

Tef’s version of Taziki

Serves about two people

Ingredients
Small carton of natural yogurt. Goat or sheep yogurt is best, or a mixture of the two. (No flavored yogurt.)
One fresh, crisp cucumber
Sea Salt – a good pinch
Dried Mint – one teaspoon
Sprig Fresh mint – for decoration
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – to drizzle over before serving
White wine vinegar - one teaspoon
Garlic (optional) half a clove, or one very small clove

This dish should have a slightly salty taste, just adjust the amount to suite you.

Method
Empty the yogurt into a bowl and add the vinegar. Add the salt, crushing between your fingers as you add it. Add the dried mint, lightly crushing between fingers as you add it.

*If you want to add garlic, crush the garlic and add now. (Not chopped, must be crushed fully almost to a paste).

Gently mix together until smooth and refridgerate while you prep the cucumber. Gently peel the skin from the cucumber being careful not to remove too much skin or flesh, then slice the cucumber in half length ways, and scoop out all the seeds and central watery part.

Either grate the cucumber (messy), or finely slice length ways. You should end up with a pile of 3 inch slivers of cucumber. Add the cucumber now to the yogurt and gently but thoroughly mix.

Just before serving, drizzle just a little oil on the surface, and add a little sprig of fresh mint as a decoration. Serve immediately (and always cold).

Serve
Enjoy with hot pita bread and olives as a dip, or as a side dish to go with almost anything.

Variations
Aficionados of this dish sometimes add a few drops of Ouzo (Greek aniseed spirit)
Vary the amount of salt to suite your taste.
Vary the amount of cucumber to add.
Leave out the garlic.

from the kitchen of Tef Tewfik from the UK.

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