Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ups and Downs in the Summer Garden

So far the perils of my urban gardening include cigarette butts, tomato thievery, and now, an automobile accident.

This little fellow could have become a wild, roving vine growing heavy with yellow patty pan squash. But it was not to be. I planted him in an inopportune location, too close to the curb of my little plot, and it was run into repeatedly by cars parking in that spot. I'm disappointed, but I have a seedling growing indoors right now that I will re-plant safely back from the curb once it sprouts a few more leaves. I will have patty pan squash this year, damn it, even if I have the pollinate the blossoms myself! They are so cute. Cute is a high priority in the garden. And on the plate. And in life in general. Okay, maybe it's not a priority, but it's fun.

Aside from the squash casualty, the garden has been doing pretty well. The tomato plant is still growing and fruiting. I took some to my parents and to my aunt. I have to say it felt pretty damn good to be able to bring them something I grew myself after so many years of only talking about what I was trying to grow. And leaving their house with baskets full of their veg-- of course, that still happens. I also got to gift my mom with a wee strawberry. She was impressed with the sweetness of both. So proud, I was.

The strawberry plant is now sending off runners, which is very exciting! Maybe next season I'll have two ripe strawberries at a time.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

There is a National Sunflower Association

And they taught me how to harvest the seeds from the "Mammoth Sunflower" I grew (I received a great bounty of seeds from my sweet Secret Santa last year, including sunflower). I started this sunflower in a pot so its growth was stunted-- it only got to 4-ish feet tall when this variety can grow to 10-12 feet tall. I can't wait to plant some directly in the ground next season and have a whole army of these things. And then I can throw a harvesting party.
Here's my Sunny. His head got super-droopy in July:
You can see the bald spot where I plucked off sunflower seeds now and then for a taste. Raw sunflower seeds are nice.
 I beheaded him and brushed off all the florets:
 All those tightly packed seeds. Magical.
The sunflower was about nine inches across.
This is what was left of the stalk:
 I found that it was pretty sturdy after pulling it out of the ground, and have since stripped off the leaves and turned it into a support for my tomatoes. After waving it around like a weapon a few times.
 The shucking process took a bit longer than I expected. 
About half of the seeds I collected proved to be empty after a squeeze (I guess the bees were not so busy this spring), but I had a good couple handfuls of the seeds. After cleaning them and soaking them in salt water per the National Sunflower Association's instructions, I dried them. Didn't get a chance to roast them before gifting them to my friend Claire, but she seemed to approve of them as they were.

It was worth the effort of the last few months. Enjoyed a pretty sunflower, then got tasty seeds and a new pole for the still-going tomato plants to hang onto. All good.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Box o' Green // My Parents Are My CSA

I have not shared bounty from my parents or the fate of said bounty in while, but I was inspired to do so again by this most recent haul:
All of it was green. All delicious.

From their garden:

From the market:
  • Mangos 
  • Small watermelon
I always take walks around the yard whenever I go home, examining all the different things blossoming and growing and dying back. Their wild tomato plant is starting to die back. The persimmons and guavas and bananas are green and on their way for a fall harvest, and my dad has many more rows of those sweet lettuces and mustard greens sprouting up along with tons of Thai basil. I'm usually wary of taking too much home since I have a hard time cooking and eating everything, but I have help in the form of Vicky, my Vietnamese-American roommate.

It's awesome having a fellow Southeast Asian for a roommate and have an opportunity to bring a taste of home into our kitchen. There is something really special about cooking things that were so much a part of daily life during childhood and which are now so occasional. 

Coming up this week: bitter melon soup and Asian squash stir-fry. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

American Cooking: Creole & Acadian // Gulf Oil Spill

I want to find as many books from the Foods of the World series as possible. I have the one pictured, American Cooking: Creole and Acadian by Peter S. Feibleman, and The Cooking of Provincial France by MFK Fisher.

Feibleman's prose doused me in the romance of Louisianan food from the perspective of one who had grown up with it. He has a delicious nostalgic tone along with the recipes and large photographs--traveling through his earliest memories of his own kitchen to the restaurants in the French Quarter, all the way to the bayou. He talks about glistening trees and shimmering water and eating po'boys in the rain, his lilting, lazy narrative easily evoking his New Orleans upbringing.