Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Apple Tree Flowers

I was walking home from a neighbor's yesterday, preoccupied with making it to the bus in time to ride out to school for free (yea for Free Fare Week in Whatcom County!) when I was hailed by my lovely young neighbor Amelia. I think she's 4.

"You can eat the apple tree flowers," she told me. That confused me, since it's August. "They taste hot," she added. Then I got it. Her folks have put two young columnar apple trees in pots by the front gate. Each pot is spilling over with an exuberance of nasturtiums. Therefore: apple tree flowers. I munched a peppery blossom and thought, not for the first time, how lucky I am in my neighbors.

When I got back I saw a another piece of luck. The recent rains have gotten my new sowing of salad greens off to a strong start. Kale, leeks, and chard are all in the ground for spring. When I go back to work next week, I'll be overwhelmed as usual by the start of school, but I won't be kicking myself for not have gotten started on the overwintered veggies.

And I made the bus with a minute to spare.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Grown in Columbia (Neighborhood)

Romenesco broccoli, aka Pyramidenblumenkohl, among many other names. It tastes like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. It looks like something Harry Potter would study in herbology.
I've learned from cookalmostanything.blogspot.com, whose author also took this picture, that it is a mathematician's dream, being both a demonstration of the Fibonacci number sequence and a fractal, made up of ever-smaller repeating copies of the same shape.

We had a Grown in Columbia table at the neighborhood association potluck this week. Although our egg and honey crops were not represented, gardeners rose to the challenge. We had rhubarb crumble, Mennonite plum “platz” pastries, several takes on potato salad, a beautiful and delicious roasted beet salad on a bed of arugula, and a combination of Romanesco broccoli, chard, and other greens that was tantalizing both to see and to eat.
The dishes incorporated edible pod peas, wax beans, nasturtiums, shallots, and purple carrots.

Our cool spring and early summer was represented in the lack of tomatoes and summer squash. Usually by August, a call for food bank donations would be met by piles of zukes, and gardeners would be eager to show off the first cherry and plum tomatoes of the season. We got just one small bag of golden zucchini. I did eat my own first ripe tomato yesterday; it was about the size of a garbanzo bean and it tasted just wonderful. It was the outlier that often shows up weeks ahead of anything else on a tomato plant, so I won’t be making a Caprese salad anytime soon.

The bush wax beans are in full swing, but I can’t say I’m loving the taste enough to grow them again. Usually I grow romanos, and maybe that rich flavor is spoiling me for the subtleties of the wax variety. They are surely pretty though. Tomatillos and cucumbers are flowering, the poor stunted little zucchini plants are starting to produce, and my artichokes are abundant enough for kitchen experiments (to be reported later).

The latest garden project is to find the patches where I can plant seed for fall and winter greens. Last year I waited too long, and the days were too short too soon to give those salads a decent start. This year I hope time things better. If we up the ante and have a Grown in Columbia table at the February meeting, I want to be ready.

For a good basic primer on winter and early spring harvesting, which means planting right now, check out http://www.seedsofchange.com/enewsletter/issue_51/extend_season.asp

For the full local picture and a chance to thank Binda Colebrook for the decades she has spent making Whatcom County more fruitful and beautiful, get yourself a copy of Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest.