Thursday, July 28, 2011

Strawberries Home-Grown & Strawberries Farm-toxic

I used to walk past a strawberry farm on my way to middle school, just around the corner from my parents' house. I grew up in Garden Grove, a town in Orange County (but definitely not The OC land), where a Strawberry Festival is held every year.

Despite the strawberry farms I grew up around, I hadn't thought of strawberries as a plant for the garden, at least not until I saw an episode of Jamie At Home focused on them. My friend Mary Rose grew Alpine strawberries in her container garden last year and, a few months ago, gave me a plant that grew from runners. (Man, plants are so magical.)

I planted the little guy in my garden, and after a couple of weeks of hand-wringing that it might die, it began to grow new leaves and send off blossoms. Even though I grew up near strawberry farms, I didn't know that they sent up such pretty little white flowers. I suppose I hadn't paid much attention or thought to pay attention.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Say Peas // Google Cuteness, Again

I love it when Google is cute with food on their homepage. Today's graphic is in honor of Gregor Mendel's birthday. Remember learning about him and his peas in grade school biology?
Yeah, I don't remember much other than something about dominant and recessive genes. But I do like peas.  And I'm very fond of Jamie Oliver. In honor of Mr. Mendel, peas, and Jamie Oliver, I share with you this video from the 'Peas  &  Broad Beans' episode of Jamie At Home.
I would never have thought to pair peas with mozzarella before seeing this. Nom.

[There's an archive of all the Google Doodles! Of course there is. I didn't know they had different ones in each country... behind the times much? Yep.]

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stolen Fruit // Urban Gardening

Today I discovered that someone picked three of the first big, ripe tomatoes I grew.
They've been bright red and looking juicy for a few days, but I was waiting for them to spend some more time on the vine to get the best flavor possible (though this article suggests that's not necessary). When I went down to water the garden this morning, I was surprised to find three of these big ones gone. None of the smaller tomatoes were taken. It was upsetting at first.

I came back up to my apartment and wrote a note that said "Dear Tomato Thief, picking without asking is rude." After taping up the sign and returning to my apartment, I thought about how I've picked fruit without asking before from trees I've come across (though I've never picked vegetables from what I knew was someone's garden), and realized that I wanted to be kinder about the whole situation. I'm not the ten year old kid wielding a baseball bat jealously guarding against neighborhood kids picking from my grandmother's pomegranate trees any more. Or at least I don't want to be.

Yes, it was rude of whoever did it, but I can't know that it wasn't a visitor to one of the apartments, or even just someone in the building who hadn't seen me lovingly tending to the garden and thus didn't think much of it, so I took down the note and replaced it with a sign that says "Please ask before picking" with my name and apartment number, hoping that next time, someone will ask first. I can't be sure that anyone will actually ask, and the fruit is sitting there, ripe for the picking, but I'm hoping that they'll at least think twice before doing it. When friends have asked me before if I'm worried about people messing with the garden or taking fruit, I brushed off the idea and said I wouldn't care too much. Now I know that I do care... but not enough to be angry or frustrated with it. It happened, it's past.

I just Googled "gardening stolen fruit," and the first article listed said this:
Since nothing can be done about it, it is best to let it slide & try not to feel a blind grudge against an unknown invader. And consider. . . maybe that unfortunate felon was just that desperate for something good in their diet.
I'll agree. Grudge-holding is hard, and wearing. I hope the tomatoes were ripe enough, and that they were tasty.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tobacco & Tomatoes Don't Go Together // Gardening

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where tomatoes are crossed with tobacco plants, creating an addictive, high-inducing fruit? 
In reality, smoking near tomato plants is highly discouraged because of something called tobacco mosaic virus:
Tobacco Mosaic VirusTobacco Mosaic Virus: There are actually several closely related viruses (the tobamoviruses) that cause the wilted, mottled, and underdeveloped fern-like leaves characteristic of the tobacco mosaic virus. All are spread by what are termed mechanical means: something or something that's been in contact with the virus touches an uninfected plant, and voila -- you've got an infected plant. Sanitation is therefore of the utmost importance, starting with never smoking near tomato plants, as tobacco can carry the virus. Infected plants should be destroyed. Back-yard plants purchased from a reliable nursery or grown from certified disease-free seed and handled in a tobacco-free environment by only one or two people, are unlikely to develop this disease. 
Source: here.
I'm not sure whether to really worry about this or not. Well, I really have no choice about it since there are many smokers in my apartment complex, and I don't think I can keep everyone from smoking near my plants, let alone not throw their cigarette butts on the ground (though people are considerate about my garden, which has been mostly butt-free).

What is confounding me, however, is how the rogue tomato plant that grew from a few tomatoes carelessly tossed into the succulents (and promptly forgotten until the yellow blooms were spraying all over the place) seems to be doing so well, setting more fruit than any of my lovingly-tended plants despite practically growing in an ashtray.