Category: lavender

Scenes from the garden, 2013.

My grandpa's 60+ year old rose.

Typically, I update about my little container “Victory garden” a few times during the summer. But because I’ve been so busy this year, I really had to pare down. I didn’t grow anything other than the usual herbs; a few of mine come back every year (chives, oregano, mint) and I bought a few more, like dill, tarragon, rosemary, etc. You all saw my garlic already. So I was going to stick to just herbs, my little garlic shoots & my flowers, but then I bought a cherry tomato plant at the last minute because it felt kinda naked without any veggies. But I swear, I’m stopping at that!  I have way too much going on this summer to have a massive garden.

Anyway, I was inspired by my visit to the Queens County Farm Museum & I thought I’d share some photos with you of my garden, & what I’m growing this year. Even if it’s not a lot of stuff, it’s still beautiful, because nature is always beautiful & interesting. That rose pictured above is from a plant that’s over 60 years old. It was one of the first ones my grandpa planted when he moved out to Long Island from the Bronx, and it’s still the most beautiful rose I have.

Continue reading

A time to plant, a time to sow.

;

Yes, I know, you’re all in “fall-mode” already. Me too. It’s hard not to be when Halloween has infiltrated every store & every blog (or Pinterest page) is pushing pumpkin desserts! And I’ve got those coming for you, too. But first there’s still some wrapping up to do when it comes to summer. Namely the garden.

Every year at this time, I start to dry my herbs. They continue growing until mid to late October, usually, unless it gets very cold at night very quickly. As do the peppers, sometimes. But the herbs usually get so large midway through the summer, that I end up cutting them back in late July and using most of them fresh (or freezing them). The rest I dry and add to my dried herb jars. Then I cut them back again in September. Drying fresh herbs is one of the easiest things to do, as is freezing them, and if you grow your own herbs I strongly suggest you do it! For cilantro, I suggest freezing it in olive oil. Basil is also good that way, as well as rosemary. You can freeze them in water, too, if you prefer. As far as drying them, there are, of course, quite a few different ways to do it… but this is what I do. I bought little jars from Ikea to store them in, but small Ball jars work too, as do cleaned out baby food jars. All you have to do is cut your herbs and give them a good shake outside to evict any unwanted tenants. Not cilantro, though, dried cilantro tastes nothing like fresh and it’s not really worth it. You’re better off freezing that. Anyhow, cut ‘em down and give ‘em a a shake or two… then give them a good rinse and let them dry overnight on a paper towel or clean dish towel. The next morning, tie the ends of each herb together to create a bunch, and tie with soft twine (or use a small rubber band). Place them in a brown paper lunch bag that you already labeled and “hang” them in it, gathering the top of the bag together around the bottom of the stems and tying it. Then hang the bags or place them in a cool, dry place for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, you’ll have dried herbs (if not, let them hang another week, there shouldn’t be any moisture left in them). Take them out of the bags and gently tug, pull or scrape the leaves of the herbs off the stems with your fingers. You can crumble the basil, oregano & parsley at this point, if you wish. Place them in your jars and label. Or, if you have non-edible lavender, use it in a sachet. All done!

;

Anyway… as you might have guessed, this is the last garden post of the season. Sad, yes. But each year it comes whether we like it or not. The good things far outweigh the bad: the fresh veggies that start to come in record numbers, the fresh herbs that grow like crazy, and the delicious meals, sauces & salsas that can come of them all.

;

Except this year.

;

This year I was lucky to get 8 Cajun Belle peppers, 4 SuperTasty Hybrid tomatoes and 1 Green Zebra tomato. That’s it. Of course, my herbs were huge and I got tons of use out of them all season, not to mention the pesto I’ll be making & freezing because my basil is taking over a small country. But my vegetables were not at all what they have been in the past. Why? I don’t know. The weather, maybe? I know the country is having the worst drought in two decades. But here in NY, it was a pretty wet summer (wetter than usual), but that flip-flopped from very very hot to very very wet almost constantly. The plants barely had time to dry out and recover from one storm by the time another one hit. Though really, I’m not sure. Maybe it was the crazy wind with all those severe thunderstorms (& tornadoes! WHAT?), maybe it was the really bad heat in between all that, maybe it was just me. My mind has been other places this summer, and I haven’t been as anal-retentive about keeping up with the gardening. I noticed some funky curly leaves on the tomatoes and I never even did anything about it. I haven’t weeded or used any fertilizer/plant food at all either. And maybe it was the fact that I chose heirloom tomatoes, not hardier disease-resistant ones this season. But regardless, no matter what the reason, that’s all I got so far. The “mystery plant” died sometime in mid-August, so I guess I’ll never know what it was (glad we weren’t taking bets!). Now my peppers & tomatoes will probably keep growing for a few more weeks, or at least until it gets too cold at night, but I doubt I’ll get much more out of them. Of course, if I end up with anything else, you’ll all read about it for sure. But basically, that was my bounty of 2012, and I was lucky to get it.

;

But it was still worth it. Each tomato or pepper is one more tomato or pepper I didn’t have to buy.

;

I cut those last three peppers off before they matured, because I wanted to use a variety of peppery heat in a dish I was making. The green tomato took forever to finish growing, it wasn’t done until last week. And the SuperTasty’s? Ugh. They were a struggle all season. Like I said, I could probably take some of the blame, if not most- I wasn’t 100% invested this year. But the weather was downright bizarre, so I’m just going to use that as my excuse. In all my years of having a veggie/herb garden, this is the first year my bounty was pathetic, so I guess I should be thankful. And the best part? Using fresh tomato slices from my own plant, and fresh oregano to make a fantastic light hot weather dinner: a tomato feta open-face sandwich, using one of my SuperTasty hybrid tomatoes & both kinds of fresh oregano.

;

I feel almost silly for writing up the recipe for this, it’s so easy, but epicurious.com did too, so I’m in good company. This is a good way to enjoy the fruits of your garden on a really hot, sticky late summer night. Or a slightly warm early fall evening.

TOMATO-FETA OPEN FACE SANDWICH (from epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

  • Thick slices of white bread (Pullman loaf is ideal)
  • Olive oil (good quality oil meant for eating)
  • Tomato slices
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Slabs or crumbles of feta
  • Fresh oregano

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast thick slices of white bread, then drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Add tomato slices, salt and freshly ground black pepper, slabs of feta, fresh oregano, and more oil.
  3. Eat!

I bet this sandwich would look delightful with different colored heirloom tomatoes, and it would probably be amazing with blue cheese or Gorgonzola crumbles too. Noms.

Playing in the dirt.

I thought I’d do a quick little update on the garden while things were a bit slow around here due to today’s excessive heat & sunshine that’ll blind you.

(Alright, I’m lying. It’s not that slow around here, nor is it that hot – it’s around 91° F, which compared to our 101° temps last week is nothing. I just wanted to do a garden update. Whatever.)

And so I’ll begin this written portion of the program by saying that while every other woman in the country (seemingly) is squealing in excitement for the final film installment of The Twilight Saga and/or reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve been gardening, cooking, baking, canning, beaching, grilling, strolling, sunbathing, and generally enjoying the outdoors. Not that there’s anything wrong with the aforementioned activities. I’m just saying. Summer goes by quickly, folks. Enjoy it while it’s here! The winter is loooong.

But right now, it’s pretty much hotter than hell most days. That sun I photographed above beats down relentlessly (when it’s not pouring rain & thundering, oh the joys of high humidity!) on everything making the sidewalk so hot I could fry my peppers outdoors. This poor little guy was one of the (probably many) casualties of the heat. I call him The Jesus Lizard, because a few weeks prior, I found a lizard laying in quite the same position, and assumed him dead. Yet when I went to brush him off the walkway into the flowerbed (I don’t know why, my version of a lizard burial I suppose) he flipped over and scooted away. This time… however… he was 100% definitely dead. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is that very same lizard. So of course, what else would I call him but the Jesus Lizard? Somewhere, many other lizards are awaiting his second coming. Until then, rest in peace little dude.

The heat is no joke. This is why they tell you to check on the elderly & young’ns and make sure your pets have plenty of cold fresh water. Anyway… let’s get back to something pleasant: my container garden! Prepare for lots of photos.

Cajun Belle pepper

Green Zebra heirloom tomato

SuperTasty Hybrid tomato

Herbs; dill, cilantro, rosemary

Oregano

Variegated oregano

Mint

Rosemary

Lavender (not edible)

Basil

The “Mystery Plant”

So yeah. That’s pretty much that.

The interesting thing is that “Mystery Plant” there. Whatever it is, it’s a plant from last year that I thought was just dead wood. However, I failed to remove it from the pot at the end of the season in October, and the tag that told me what it was went missing over the winter. So I was surprised to see that there was green life coming from the dead-looking brown stalk a month ago, and I decided to leave it and see what came of it. It’s gotten bigger, with more green growing, but I’m not 100% sure what it is. It’s possible it’s my Habanero plant, or it could be a Bell pepper. It’s definitely not a tomato, and I doubt it’s an eggplant. But I guess we’ll see, right?! Whatever it is, it’s a pleasant surprise, and a testament to life and nature. It’s so true what my grandma used to say: where there’s life- there’s hope! Except for Jesus Lizard, that is.

I did have one little casualty. A Cajun Belle fell off the vine prematurely. It was so cute, and so perfectly formed… but so tiny! So I tossed it into the grass for the local bunnies or my friendly raccoon family to nibble on.

My mint is struggling to come back full force, which kinda sucks- I have a feeling by the time it’s huge the season will be over and it’ll be time for me to cut it down and dry it. It’s turning brown slightly on the edges. Blah. I’ll update again once more things start to come around. Basil? For a while it wasn’t doing too well- it seemed to be shrinking. But now it’s better. My cilantro took a nose dive, though. My tomatoes are taking an extra long time, trying my patience, for sure. I lost two buds (one from each) in a bad thunderstorm that lasted over 12+ hours and it took forever for the other teeny buds to catch up. Ugh. Hurry up tomatoes!

At least I hope they get here before Breaking Dawn pt. 2.

Kidding.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

My name is a derivative of Mary, did you know that? It’s an old English form of the name. Fancier than Mary, but still the same name & the meaning (of the original Hebrew root name, Miryam, that is) ranges from bitter/bitterness, salty to rebellion, obstinacy. I’d like to think I’m not bitter, but salty… yes. I can be a bit salty at times. And rebellious? Totally. I’ll even admit to obstinate.

That doesn’t really have anything to do with gardening. Does explain the title of this post, though. And it explains partially why my grandmother used to call me ‘Rosie the Riveter.’ I grow my own veggies & herbs in the spring/summer, bake, cook, can my own pickles/jams/jellies/sauces/etc. I can sew. I am the modern Rosie the Riveter, I guess. I can fix anything, I can paint, I can repair almost anything or install almost anything. I think it’s important to be independent. Women who are the “damsels in distress” make me want to vomit. There’s a balance though. Yes, I like doors held open for me and I like things done for me. Yes, I like to be protected and feel safe. Yes, it’s nice when a man shovels the snow for me, carries the groceries or offers to climb the ladder to fix XYZ, etc. Of course I like that. But do I need a man (or another human for that matter) to help me do things? Not most of the time. I can handle pretty much anything you throw at me. And I think that there are a lot of women who agree with me, but there are also a lot who don’t, surprisingly. They need a man to change a lightbulb or hang a picture. It’s ridiculous. Get up off your ass and learn to do something. I just hate whiny little wussy women who don’t know how to do anything. I remember when I was 17 I had to tell my then boyfriend which was the transmission fluid in his car and which was the oil. And I didn’t even own a car myself at the time- nor did I drive!

Anyway. I digress. I definitely scaled back the garden this year. I’ve got the same amount of herbs that I usually do, but I only got two tomatoes and one pepper. I didn’t grow from seed, I bought baby plants instead to lighten my load, so to speak. And also because I missed the seed-planting boat. But like I mentioned last time, I wasn’t sure how much time I’d have to invest in it this year, so I did want to scale back. But half the herbs were already growing (chives, both oregano, mint & parsley) so honestly, how scaled back could it be? Not only that, but my freakin’ chives could’ve taken over a small country… let alone my oregano. I mistakenly didn’t prune them back last fall so this year they were ridiculous. Scale back? Right. In for a penny, in for a pound, so I bought a few veggie plants and called it a day.

And no. I don’t care if you think that it’s cheating that I didn’t grow them from seeds. I’ve got so much else going on, and I do this for fun. I can’t be Wonder Woman. Well, not all the time. So save your preaching & crap for a blogger who cares & who buys into it. I’m not sustaining my entire family to get through the summer. I’m just doing this because I enjoy it.

So, the tally this year is:

  1. Green Zebra Heirloom tomato
  2. Cajun Belle pepper
  3. SuperTasty Hybrid tomato
  4. Rosemary
  5. Chives
  6. Variegated oregano
  7. Oregano
  8. Mint (small, but still trying to come back!)
  9. Italian parsley
  10. Sweet basil
  11. Lavender
  12. Cilantro
  13. Dill

I wanted to grow an heirloom tomato for a while, so I went with the Green Zebra because it was different. The other tomato? Well I got it because I wanted a regular old red tomato as well. The pepper is supposedly sweet but hot, which has a nice sound. After the Habanero’s last year, I needed a break from the super hot peppers. I ended up with 800 Hab’s and I had no idea what to do with them all! I might break down & buy another small vegetable at the nursery before the season is over, because I’m crazy like that. I’m like the crazy cat lady but with plants. Remember my half-dead blueberry bush from last year? It died, by the way. Didn’t make it through the winter. But I can’t help myself, I go into a nursery and I see all those little plants looking all lonely…

At any rate, here’s some photos from when I first planted & cleaned up my little container garden. The two tomatoes first (Green Zebra left and Super Tasty right), then the pepper (close up) then the herbs- the first photo of those two has the two different types of oregano/cilantro/dill/rosemary and the Cajun pepper (while it was still just flowering), the last photo has the basil and lavender. Things have changed since then, so scroll on down and see!

I’m slightly concerned that I’ve read the Green Zebra tomato isn’t very disease resistant & also that aphids seem to love it. I hate to think that it’ll die or be a waste, but even if I get one or two tomatoes from it I’ll be appeased. Aphids love my roses too, for some strange reason more so my Intrigue & Queen Elizabeth, but so far this year I haven’t seen any. Here’s hoping they stay away! Yeah. I know. I’m dreaming.

As the last thing for this post, here are some of my flowers so far. They’re absolutely beautiful; clockwise from top left… Pansy, Rose, Dianthus and Petunia.

The last garden update of the season… maybe.

Well I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my garden this summer, and it seems to be continuing. I think until at least October I’ll have some more veggies, and the herbs will last until the weather gets too cold. Which makes me sad, because even though autumn is my favorite time of year, and Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday, I have to say summer is awesome. The mere idea that there will be no more beach days for another 8-10 months makes me really, really sad. And the thought that winter (& my archnemesis- snow) is right around that corner makes me even sadder. Winter is a long time, and it feels longer thanks to the never-ending blizzards that usually hit the East Coast. But that’s life, right? It goes in cycles, and you have to take the good with the bad, the rain with the rainbow, etc. All those other platitudes & cliches. But at any rate there’s plenty to look forward to and plenty to keep me busy until next spring & summer rolls around.

Before I get to my garden though… I wanna talk about something. Every year I mention this and this year is no different. As a matter of fact, The Great American Dine-Out is as old as this blog is, which means this is it’s third year. The Great American Dine-Out is an event that stretches over the course of a few days every year. Hundreds and thousands of restaurants all across the country participate, and simply by eating at (or having take out) from one of these restaurants during a certain week in September, you can help to end childhood hunger in America.

Every 6 seconds in this world, an infant dies of starvation. That’s terrible, and it shouldn’t be that way. As a matter of fact, in the time it took me to write this blog post, something like 50+ babies died because they didn’t have food to eat. However, in struggling countries with poor education, poor resources, and poor medical care, it might not be as much of a shock to you. But how about this statistic: in America, for 1 in 6 Americans, hunger is a way of life. Many children, seniors even adults who can’t make ends meet go days without meals. In this country especially, one of the richest in the world, there is no excuse. Right here on our own soil, babies are going hungry.

Every week on this blog I talk about and make delicious recipes, and show pictures of beautiful food, and for example today I’ll be posting pictures of gorgeous fresh vegetables from my garden, etc. And to think that there are something like 50 million Americans who aren’t eating dinner tonight, or maybe haven’t had anything all day to eat, it makes me very sad.

According to Feeding America:

Hunger Statistics on Food Insecurity and Very Low Food Security

  • In 2008, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 32.4 million adults and 16.7 million children.
  • In 2008, 14.6% percent of households (17.1 million households) were food insecure, an increase from 11.1 percent (13.0 million households) in 2007.
  • In 2008, 5.7 percent of households (6.7 million households) experienced very low food security, an increase from 4.1 percent in 2007.
  • In 2008, households with children reported food insecurity at almost double the rate for those without children, 21.0 percent compared to 11.3 percent.
  • In 2008, households that were more likely to experience food insecurity were households with children (21.0 percent), households with children headed by single women (37.2 percent) or single men (27.6 percent), households with incomes below the poverty line (42.2 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (25.7 percent) and Hispanic households (26.9 percent).
  • In 2008, 8.1 percent of households with seniors (2.3 million households) were food insecure

How can we help? Easy.

Go to the website and find a participating restaurant. Then, during the week of September 19 – 25, eat dinner at one of those restaurants. Or, if you’re a restaurant owner, go to the website and enroll your restaurant. No donations, no checks, no nothing. It’s that easy. Seriously. Just by eating out, you can help. Although, if you’re feeling generous, you can also make a donation. We can stop this, and then move to ending worldwide hunger. We can and we should. For more info, you can follow them on Twitter at @Dine_Out and go to the Share Our Strength Facebook page. And if you want to help out with ending world hunger, take a look at the One.org website, or click the banner on the top left of this page.

Now, I’m off my soapbox. Let’s get back to our regular programming. The first thing I harvested and used was my Cubanelle pepper. It grew two beautiful peppers which promptly were cut down and went into homemade fajitas. Mmm. After I cut these two down, I noticed a bunch of new buds, and as we speak there are two new peppers growing, and more on the way. All from one teeny little plant!

….

I have a bunch of sweet red peppers growing as we speak, speaking of peppers. These first two pictures were about a week/week and a half apart. I’m still undecided what to do with these. I’m thinking of using them when I make pickles next time (real pickles, not the 24-hour ones I made before), just putting one in each jar as an added flavor. There are 5 fully grown ones, and there are about 6 or 7 buds.

And here’s the bell pepper. It’s starting to change color a bit. Sadly, the other pepper that was growing on this plant was lost in a bad storm. This plant is the only one that stayed very small, and compact. My tomatoes went crazy and took over!

Here’s my cucumber! It finally grew! The pictures are all a day apart, except the last one which is obviously the cucumber after it was done growing (and right before it became pickles). This dude totally snuck up on me. So long I went without seeing any signs of cukes and then bam! Here he was. Then right after he started, a bunch of others came out of nowehere. Two whole garden posts and no cucumbers… then all of a sudden they decide to join the party. Nice of them to come around… I heard the pickles were great. Muahahahaha! If you’re interested in the pickle recipe I used, it’s here. Keep in mind, this is ONE pickle’s progress… since then I’ve harvested two more and there are crazy amounts of cukes left on the vine still growing. I cut this one off a bit early, because the best kind of cucumbers to use when making pickles are ones with little to no seeds, meaning “younger.” The darker they are and the more mature seeds they have, the worse they are for pickling.

Cucumbers always look dirty & obscene, don’t they? Haha.

And remember this guy? My patio tomato. This first picture is the last one you saw of him, from my last garden post. The next few are his progress since then, and the final picture is him, in my hand, totally perfect and gorgeous… and about to be sliced and eaten fresh with salt & pepper. Keep in mind, this is a little tomato, not a regular sized one!

That little tomato (and his buddy that was harvested two days later) was super delicious. Thankfully, there are 4 or 5 more just like him on his vine, plus more buds.

My eggplant FINALLY decided to join the party too! After losing two previous buds to wind/rain, I got a few that started and stuck with me. Then we had another torrential rainstorm, and I was terrified I’d lose them, but they were still here. I kind of forgot about him for a while… so the first picture and the second one are kinda far apart, I can’t remember how long. The third is about four or five days after the second, the fourth is a few days after that and the fifth picture is a close up of one of the other 4 eggplant blossoms also growing on the same vine. Four eggplants, maybe more. Not bad for one little plant in a pot, eh?

I’m really pleased with all of my veggies! And it just goes to show you, you don’t need a large plot of land dedicated to a big garden to grow your own vegetables. For every single one of these, I used big pots to grow them in. And they did just fine, in fact, they thrived. Although I admit, after reading this blog I sort of love the idea of living on a farm. Imagine having your own eggs, your own milk, your own everything- right at your front door? No pesticides, no chemicals, no antibiotics, no unnatural hormones, etc. It really is amazing. I’m in no way downplaying the amount of work that goes into being a farmer, not at all. I just think that the pros (and rewards) must out-weigh the cons. Would I be able to slaughter a chicken? Probably not. I’m a puss-cake, I admit. However a vegetable/herb farm or one with cows for fresh milk sounds heavenly. I know, I must sound like Marie Antoinette with her “Le Petit Trianon “; a self-proclaimed city girl wanting to traipse around in the mud and muck & live a “simpler life.” But it’s true. That’s very appealing to me. Although if I didn’t live within a certain distance from a big  museum, shopping area or restaurants, I’d probably lose my mind. However after seeing Food, Inc I’m even more against chemically processed food than before. I’d love to have my own sustainable farm and never have to depend on any company for the majority of my nutrition ever again.

Next year I think I’ll expand to some more things; I’ll continue with the tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, peppers, etc. But I’ll also try some new things. I don’t know what yet, but I’m excited to have something to look forward to and prepare for. I’d like to get more than one of each next time… have a whole row of each. I’d also like to expand my herbs. Get some thyme, etc. And try catnip again, since mine didn’t fare well. Who knows. Maybe by then I’ll build a coop and get some chickens. Haha. Kidding.

I was very excited about my tomatoes! They were amazing. Here are the Celebrity tomatoes (each picture a day apart):

 

And Big Boy:

There will most likely be another update before the cold weather fully sets in. I can’t wait to make homemade eggplant parmigiana with my own eggplants and use my tomatoes for the sauce. I cut down my rosemary and used it to season a roast chicken last week and I plan on making rosemary lavender olive oil hand scrub with whatever is left once the weather gets cool. I’ve been cutting down the parsley and basil and lavender religiously and drying them for use over the winter, and I have plans for the chives this week (I’m thinking a re-do of these might be in order). Depending on how many more tomatoes I get before the cold weather, I might make some sauce to store up or I might give them away. I know one of my eggplants is already taken (Jay’s mom) and a cucumber as well, so I’m sure the tomatoes will be in demand. The fresh flavor of a vegetable cut right off the vine and eaten is amazing. You can’t get that unless you grow it yourself, or walk next door to someone who does.

Before you go… remember there are 10 days left to enter the Cupcake Rehab 3rd birthday giveaway.