All the photos in this blog were taken by me. The information is taken from friends, books, magazines, conversations at nurseries, the internet and a few of my own amateur-gardener thoughts. Please feel free to share your own knowledge and experiences in the comment section that follows each posting.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mixing a Little Personal With Business

My garden looks like a scene I saw in Costa Rica years ago, a jungle with oversized leaves. Or perhaps a scene from a sci-fi, like Jurassic Park where a prehistoric creature will peer out from behind the Collard Greens.  Mother Nature was busy this week. She must have known that I'd need a distraction when I returned from Boulder. Love her. She's always looking out for me.  I don't need a church to pray and express gratitude. I have my own sacred place.

One of the challenges with this time of year is what in the world to do with all the harvest? I am always looking for recipes that utilize a large amount of what I pick. A good bang for your buck recipe is Ratatouille. I was worried that the dish was too outdated to serve at a luncheon I had. Was it like walking downstairs in an old, frumpy dress? Nice, but been-there-done-that years ago? Lorin, who is an exceptionally good cook, counseled me that it was a classic and classics don't get frumpy.  I wasn't entirely convinced until she told me to top it off with some toasted pinenuts and a bit of goat cheese. Voila! That's what I needed... a little trendy to spice up my classic.  I serve this and people often tell me they don't know if they really like ratatouille and then I watch them go for more! I think some people are afraid of that many vegetables all together.


4 large tomatoes (I used a variety)
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1c chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 c chopped basil leaves (I love basil, so I add more)
2 lb eggplant cut into cubes
2 large red onion, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
3 assorted bell peppers (1-1/2 lbs) cut into 1 inch pieces
4 medium zucchini (2lb) quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 3/4 inch thick pieces
salt and pepper

Blanch and peel the tomatoes. Coarsely chop them and transfer to a heavy pot with garlic, parsley, basil and some olive oil. Simmer partially covered, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. About 30 minutes. By the way, this makes an excellent quick pasta sauce as well. 

While the sauce is simmering, toss the eggplant with 1/2t salt and let sit in a colander over the sink for half an hour at least. Pat them dry before cooking.

Once the eggplant has sweat out its needless liquid,  saute the onions, eggplant, bell peppers and zucchini over medium heat until they soften - about 10-15 minutes. Epicurious suggests cooking all these vegetables separately. I do not see the reason other than to add to your dirty dishes. Just make sure to stir occasionally. But, if you're a rule follower, you can saute them separately.

Lastly, add the softened vegetables to the tomato sauce, simmer covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about an hour. Cool, uncovered and serve warm or at room temperature. 

I can also tell you that the flavor is unbelievable the second day! And don't forget to top it with the pinenuts and goat cheese. No frumpy ratatouille here.


Yes, my Green Zebra Tomato, the very one from Love Apple Farm did have mites. I bought a 3x loop just like Love Apple suggested we do and sure enough, I could see them crawling on the leaves. Not too many per leaf, but enough to see that they had taken up residency and were not going away.  There are several remedies that you can find on the Love Apple site (see my most recent posting), but I decided that I have enough tomato plants and I just want it out of the box, like a broken toy. 

Who needs Sonoma?   If you're under the impression that you can't grow grapes in your own backyard and you have to go to the wine country to witness such a feat. Think again.

I grew these Champagne grapes and they were delicious and impressive on a cheese platter. I love when something really works in the garden! 
And, P.S. I still need Sonoma, honey. Don't worry.

And another first... I harvested beets!



The annual Bonnie Addario Walk for Lung Cancer is coming up, September 12 at 5:00pm in Golden Gate Park. If you can join me and our Team Xhale, please sign up here. We had a fabulous and meaningful time last year with a team of over thirty people. This year, the race is in honor of Jill, a student at UC Berkeley who lost her life to lung cancer and never smoked a cigarette in her life. Please help me support the efforts being made to eradicate this disease that is affecting too many people. Three of my loved ones have died from lung cancer, my father, Liane and King. Please help me help Bonnie.


No one can prepare you for the awe of your newborn laying on your belly breathing simultaneously with you, no one can prepare you for the seemingly endless sleepless nights that occur, no one can prepare you for the pride you feel in the nucleus of your cells numerous times throughout their childhood, no one can prepare you for the joy you feel when you hear them laugh from the belly... you know where I am going with this... no one can prepare you for the feeling you have when you walk back in the house after you return from taking your child to college and realize that their returns to home will be temporary forever more. It's a daunting feeling that you cannot prepare for. Don't get me wrong, the happiness I have knowing that Jeffrey has transitioned with ease into his new adventure gives me the required strength to carry on, I just wasn't prepared for the range of emotions that roll in and out like the perfect wave.

Life is Good

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Flying Through Life

It's August and the vegetables are peaking. I picked my first harvest of tomatoes and even made a batch of Gazpacho, which symbolizes summer garden success, in my opinion. The peppers and eggplant are producing in bulk. The zucchini is tapering off. One plant seems to be just enough. The cucumbers are a bit tricky. I planted Fanfare imagining that I would like the longer version, but they are bitter. I haven't quite mastered just when to harvest them to get an optimal taste. Perhaps my largest accomplishment is the Yellow Watermelon. I picked one yesterday and everyone was impressed at breakfast. I have three more and I am going to leave them on the vine a bit longer hoping for an even sweeter treat.

Remember my last post I mentioned that one of my tomato plants turned brown and I had to pull it out? Well, Love Apple Farm's Website features an explanation, the Tomato Russet Mite.  I haven't purchased a 3x Loop to examine the leaves, but its quite possible that my tomato plant was infested with it. Its also interesting to note that it was the only plant I purchased from Love Apple Farm.  If your tomatoes are showing signs of browning and fatigue, read Cynthia's web page and act NOW! 

According to Pam Peirce from Golden Gate Gardening (my bible), "When you pick a tomato, try to break the stem at the natural separation point about 1/2 inch above the fruit, leaving the stem and little green cap attached." Also, store fruit out of direct sunlight at room temperature. Refrigeration ruins the flavor. I keep mine in a large bowl on the counter and admire the strong blast of red. Speaking of red... if you have to pick some tomatoes before they are fully ripened, you can force the ripening by putting them in a brown paper bag and rolling the top down pretty close to the bundle of fruit. In other words, don't leave a lot of space in the bag. You can't leave them in the bag for too long for obvious reasons, but they will ripen quicker than leaving them on the counter. Tomatoes give off ethylene gas, which is needed for ripening. The bag holds the gas near the fruit. Pam suggests wrapping each tomato with newspaper. That's too much of a process for me. Plus, the one, weekly newspaper I get, I feed to my worms. Did I just say worms? 

It never occurred to me that you may be worrying about my worms. Well, they're fine. They are enjoying the shredded newspaper, food scraps and a sprinkle of water,  I add to the box each week. There is a fair amount of worm castings, which will be my compost, already accumulating in the box. I haven't quite figured out how to completely separate them from the compost, but I will. So far, I would deem it a successful science experiment. 

Don't forget to fertilize your flower pots. The soil loses its nutrients quickly from all the watering during these hot summer days. I add a couple tablespoons of fish emulsion to my gallon jug of water (when I remember) and I believe it makes a difference. I also add new flowers to the pots occasionally to keep things colorful and fresh looking. Yet another reason to move towards replacing everything with succulents! 

I usually don't post other peoples' photographs, but I couldn't resist this one.  Russ, a high school friend of mine is an artist, gardener, nature-admirer and all-around great guy. He often goes on hikes around his property in Ohio with his dog, Butchie and sends pictures and fabulous stories.  He sent me this picture, titled Thirsty Butterflys.

If you've been following this blog, you know that I had baby Mockingbirds who left their nest the day of my son, Jeffrey's graduation party. We've had another significant flight happen in our house although this time it wasn't created by Mother Nature. This surprise was carefully crafted by Mother Whitney. 

Happy Birthday to my darling, daring daughter! She Soared in her Sweet Sixteen at iFly, an indoor skydiving experience. Another flight...through life.

There was a quote on a sky-blue colored wall at iFly that caught my attention:

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always be."
- Leonardo Da Vinci

Perhaps it makes me think about Jeffrey tasting his flight as he goes off to college next week. 
I better go back to the garden and find comfort from Mother Nature and ... my Buddha, who reminds me to slow down when I glance at her standing tall against the Phormium. 

P.S. Did you like the music?