Treats

We have garlic scapes! The garlic that we planted was two varieties- one given to us at a food swap and the other purchased at the farmers market. Turns out, it was mostly soft neck and fast growing!

We already have soft neck garlic drying on the laundry line, and 5 hard neck garlic still growing. Today I picked these beautiful scapes.

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I have no idea what to do with them! We want to make something other than pesto- something that lets us enjoy our small treat.

This morning, while taking my stroll around the yard with the dog, I noticed a lot of activity in an avocado tree. Turns out the bushtits have built a nest! Perhaps it’s from the same family as last year?

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Last year, the little babies didn’t make it.  The branch that they built the nest on has since been removed.  I was excited to spot the nest up much higher!  Mom and Dad were flitting in and out of the nest.  Hopefully there will be more news to come!

 

Spring time is time

First, please excuse the quality of the pictures.  I’ve been busy in the garden, and have been snapping pics along the way, but these days they’ve been going to Facebook instead of here.  So, in an effort to get back to blogging, I’m posting my phone pictures here.  Hopefully I’ll squeeze in time to continue to garden, and share it!

What’s great about spring in California, is things are taking off and starting to grow.  The past week has been quite windy and a bit cool at night (50s), so some of the new plants are a little stressed.

Our roses have been loving the weather though!  They’re just about in full bloom!

20140403-170119.jpgThe mint below our roses is perfect right now! Usually the roses go through an aphid phase, when they first start leafing out.  That didn’t happen this year!  I blame climate change. Heh.

20140403-170344.jpgThe onions are still growing.  A few look like they’re going to flower soon.  I’ve never grown onions, and would love any advice you all have.  Should I snap off the flowers?  Can I cook with the flowers?  Are my onions ok?  So many questions– I’ll probably look up some of them later, but I’d much prefer to spend time playing with the dog, cooking dinner or grading papers.

20140403-170357.jpgA couple of weeks ago, I pinched off all of the chive blossoms to make chive blossom vinegar. Today, I noticed that this one flower is showing off.  Perhaps it should go into a salad?  20140403-170410.jpgWe’ve planted almost all of our tomatoes already.  They’re small, but they’re growing and looking great!

20140403-170453.jpgMost of them went into the backyard lasagna beds.  David is going to put in T-stakes for the Florida Weave.  The closer to the wall row has slicing tomatoes, and the front row has tomatillos intermixed with San Marzanos.

20140403-170526.jpgWe’ve been picking broccoli every few days.  This is probably the biggest head we’ve grown.  Any great broccoli recipes to share?  I keep wanting to freeze it for later in the year, but David really likes to eat it fresh while we can!20140403-170541.jpgHeads of lettuce hasn’t been my thing.  I’ve always grown leaf lettuce.  Since living in this house, I haven’t been able to keep up with our salads.  So, I decided it’s time to plant heads, and plant them in intervals.  Here’s the first few (as well as a chard that seeded itself). 20140403-170555.jpgOur strawberries and blackberries are new this year.  We’ve been watching our first berry grow.  Today I looked, and it was too late.  It was shriveled on top, and full of tiny millipedes who were eating it!  To my dismay, when I look a bit closer at the other ones that are growing, I noticed most of them are deformed.  I’m no longer optimistic about the strawberries.  The raspberries are just starting to form buds, so I’m now hoping they’ll produce at least one fruit for us. 20140403-170615.jpgWe have a volunteer tomato by our hose faucet in the front yard.  David and I have harvested 5 small tomatoes so far.  Unfortunately, they taste like winter store bought tomatoes (which I don’t ever buy because they’re so gross).  However, the tomatoes did taste good in the guacamole that we’ve been making and it IS nice to be able to pick some.  I wonder if these will become piccalilli, or green tomato salsa…

20140403-170645.jpgOur apricots.  We’ve been watching these, with great anticipation.  I’ve never grown apricots before.  Each time I look, I notice that some have fallen from the tree.  I hear that it’s normal for the tree to do that, but it still is hard to watch!  Here’s what they look like today. 20140403-170634.jpgSo many more things are going on outside.  Most of the direct seeding still needs to be done.  The broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are finishing up.  We have a few eggplants ready to go in the ground when the brassicas come out.  Our squash is just about big enough to go in.  We didn’t have very good germination on the squash and cucumbers, so this week I reseeded them as well as seeded herbs, hot peppers under the grow lights.

I can’t believe it’s already April.  It’ll be summer before we know it!

 

Hummingbird nest

Hummingbird nest

It’s spring! Our tomato seedlings are hardening off, we’re waiting on our peppers to grow second leaves and our squash seeds were planted this weekend. Dave and I just spread fresh mulch on the garden. I’m drawing up plans and trying to figure out how to fit everything in.

Meanwhile, at school, I’ve begun a hummingbird study where I’m setting up motion sensitive cameras. The cameras have been a bit difficult (and the one I really need right now is back ordered) but luckily there are dedicated students to help.

Here’s a picture that one of my after school gardening students took of a hummingbird nest yesterday! The babies are being closely watched by our students. I’m working on my camera today and hope to get one up soon.

Aren’t they just the cutest?

(Thanks Natalie for the photo!)

Summer is ending

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Our tomatoes don’t have much more to offer, neither fruit nor flower. Today I heavily pruned while I picked from 5 different plants (2 of which had only 1 tomato). The fall plants are in the nursery and only our celery and long beans are thriving right now. I hope I have time to plant Cipollini onions, shallots, peas and garlic this weekend. I’d also like to get more carrots, lettuce, spinach and radishes planted, as I last planted some 2 weeks ago and I’m trying to get better about my intervals.

And now back to making pesto. Our basil should yield one more crop after this one! (And the new crop doesn’t look great.)

Beans

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Today I cleaned up the long beans and scarlet runners that are growing along the back fence. Nights are dropping into the 50′s with days in the 80′s- fall is here in Los Angeles! I found dried scarlet runners and long beans to set aside for next year, a few new yellow beans (the plants are getting a little powdery mildew) and a heap of long beans. Quick pickles are happening! This week the plan is also to make pesto and chimmichurri for the freezer and pull out our waning Isis Candy. Our baby cabbages and broccoli should be ready to plant soon!

Avocado regrowth

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Each weekend has passed quickly without time for blogging. We’ve been planting our fall garden and already have many greens and radishes growing. Last weeks we started seed flats with 5 varieties of cabbage, 3 kinds of broccoli and more. Garlic and shallots are going in the weekend and maybe we’ll have time to make tomato sauce (as we’re still getting San Marzanos).

I’ll try to post pictures more often, and keep posts shorter.

Yesterday I noticed that our stump branch on the avocado tree is resprouting! We’re hoping that this will mean we can actually reach the avocados in the future. Until then, our neighbor who is a roofer offered to help us get down frui.

Dragonfruit!!

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Just a quick post from my phone to share our exciting flowering dragonfruit!! We got the cutting a little over a year ago, and I thought these suckers are supposed to take much longer to flower. The cactus has been tucked in a corner. I hope I didn’t disturb it too much when I turned it around to see the lovely flower. And hopefully she’s opening up not closing!

Tomato overload

I can’t believe it’s been almost three weeks since my last blog!  This August has been quite cool for Los Angeles.  David makes fun of me because I put on a sweatshirt in the evenings, complaining of the chill in the air, and I’m the one who’s lived in Minnesota and Maine before. Don’t tell anyone, but I think living in LA has made me a wimp about the weather.

The past three weeks have also been spent at a conference and professional development for school.  My teacher brain has been taking in copious amounts of information during the day, and my evenings have been spent either in the garden or kitchen.  Blogging has fallen by the wayside.

This coming Monday I have parent conferences with some of my students, and the kiddos arrive on Tuesday!  So, this weekend we plan to take care of the over abundance of produce that has been accumulating on our counters.  We have been eating a lot from the garden.  We’ve had zucchini roulades, roasted eggplant, zucchini soup, red kuri coconut curry soup, caprese salad and more.  Last weekend we had friends over and set up a table in the middle of the garden.  We’ll do that again, and I’ll make sure to take pictures next time!

Since I’ve been at school during the past few weeks, I’ve been harvesting food from our fruit trees and school gardens.  David stopped by campus to help out, and we picked figs from three different trees.

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We’re so excited about having fig jam!  We halved 3.5lbs of figs and cooked them down with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and water (we followed the recipe from Put ‘Em Up).

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Canning things as delicious as fig jam present an interesting dilemma- we want to crack the jars open and eat it now, but we’ve spent time canning it so we can eat it later.  We did have a small amount that wouldn’t fit in the jars that we were able to eat right away (with goat cheese and walnuts).  I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to resist this jam.  I’m not sure we’ll need to resist for that long, because I just found out about a fig tree in my community garden that is in need of harvesting!

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I found this pumpkin ready to take home at school.  The vine was dead and it was laying in the aisle.  There’s a second one, which I plan to bring into my classroom.  This one will become pumpkin puree. Pamela, from Brooklyn Farm Girl, got me thinking about how great pumpkin puree would be to have in our freezer.  Our baby Casper pumpkin plant is just starting to branch out, so hopefully we’ll have more coming!

Last night I went through our tomatoes, picked out recipes and started prepping them for the recipes.  I devised this new strategy this past week: one day find recipes and clean, core, cut, weigh tomatoes and put in bags for the next day where we cook and can.  It’s been working well so far.

In addition to harvesting from our yard and school, our neighbor has been out of town for two weeks and we’ve been watching his cat and caring for his garden.

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His early crop of tomatoes is finishing up, but his yellow and oxheart tomatoes are just starting.  He also has syrah grapes, which we nibbled on and planned to pickle but ended up composting. The bowls above are from the first week’s harvest.  We’ve filled another couple of bowls since then.

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David made ketchup and orange tomato jam with smoked paprika this week.  I asked him to take pictures, but that’s not his style.  But you can see how there are lots of jars!

Today I am using more yellow/orange tomatoes to make yellow tomato basil jam.  They are currently macerating in the kitchen and it’s just about time to head outside to pick basil.

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The food looks so beautiful while it’s being prepared.  Add a little bit of water, and everything looks better!

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The San Marzanos here are getting prepped for coring then fire-roasting.  I’ve been wanting to make a fire roasted salsa all summer, but these will become fire-roasted canned tomatoes instead.  We already have plenty of salsa in jars, but very few whole tomatoes. Fire-roasted whole tomatoes should come in handy.  I’ll have to inventory our cans, as this is our first year of doing this so it’s a guessing game as to how much we’ll really use during the year.

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These Isis Candy cherry tomatoes will soon be a balsamic cherry tomato caramelized onion conserve. The recipe looks like a winner! We’re always looking for more ways to preserve cherry tomatoes.

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After prepping for canning this weekend, we determined that we had 12.5lbs of tomatoes that will be going to our produce exchange this weekend!  This is first experience with a produce exchange and it’s coming at a perfect time.

We’ve already canned whole tomatoes, two batches of tomato sauce, three different salsas, tomato jam and ketchup.  We also have dehydrated and roasted tomatoes in the freezer and will be canning roasted tomatoes, tomato jam and tomato conserve this weekend.

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Rosie is great at keeping us company, but she seems to prefer when we’re in the garden as opposed to the kitchen.  Every so often we’ll toss her ball out the kitchen door to keep her retriever genes happy.

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As a final picture, we recently spotted one of our praying mantis friends!  I’m pretty certain that the brown coloration means this is a male.  We’ve yet to spot a female, but he should be able to find one.  And hopefully mate.  Then hopefully avoid getting decapitated.