Tuesday, December 14, 2010

If You Only Had One Choice...

I've been giving serious thought to trees lately. Just a little pondering on which tree I'd choose if I had to recommend only one.

Which tree must YOU have and simply could not do without?

What's the most essential tree someone would have to have if they could only have one tree?  Also wondered just what I'd do if I could only take one of the thirty-some-odd trees that's currently in my yard with me to some far off land ~ just which one would I take?

Instantly, my thought was to choose one of the  lemon trees.  Of course a lemon tree!  I'm always reaching for a lemon for one reason or another.  Either to soothe my throat during cold spells, in the summer for a  refreshing dose of lemonade and every day for a little zest in the salad dressing or to make some other memorable dish.

Then I thought about my childhood and recalled how lemons were completely non-essential. I immediately got a sense of betrayal as  I wouldn't be who I am today without the fresh taste of  a sweet and juicy Washington Navel orange or an intensely flavorful and incredibly petite Satsuma tangerine.  How could I ever think of recommending a lemon over a tangerine or that incredibly giving tree that sat practically at my parents back door giving me fruit anytime and every time I desired?

That tree was planted at my birth and seemed to enjoy watching me grow up: providing shade during the summer, a hideaway from friends as we played hide-and-go-seek, giving the most bold flavor of orange juice that would run down my tiny little hands as I'd smash my face into half a circle, savoring every ounce juice. It provided leaves for my art projects and I recall being so enthralled how deep green and shiny the leaves were and the subsequent miracle of fruit it produced.  I'd hug the tree and marvel at how I couldn't get my arms around the circumference of it.  There was a gentleness about that green giant.  The bark seemed cool in the summer and always provided warmth in the winter.  My dog would chase me back and forth around that tree and it always seemed to enjoy those youthful trivialities.  That was the giving tree.

Our giving orange tree was partners with a Satsuma tangerine that produced the most deliciously perfect petite fruit imaginable. Peeling the fruit was always so much fun as it would produce this effervescence which would instantly roll up my nose and contained an intense fragrance of tangerine - which in case you've never had one - is totally different from that of an orange.

The tangerine tree was actually not part of my parents garden but originated in the garden of a neighbor on a completely different block, in the rear of the yard and was so large it cascaded over a massive fence and a privately enclosed gazebo type of structure which was on my parents property.  This tree would produce so many fruit they would fall on the top of the gazebo and then roll off the roof and onto the ground in a lattice enclosed patio.  And being the impatient little grub I was, once they started falling, I'd get my father's ladder, prop it against the gazebo, climb the structure and make my way to the end of the roof and have a picking party.  I'd pick as many as I could without breaking my neck and without ever figuring out how I was going to get those tangerines off the roof and back to that old ladder.  Lord only knows why I never broke a leg as that was not the sturdiest ladder in the world and its rickety structure only barely reached the top of the roof.

I'm making myself dizzy just reliving this.

I would be so overcome with the hunt for obtaining the fruit that I would forget how much I really wasn't much of a climber but the fruit was absolutely worth every bit of risk.  Year after year after year.  I'd abscond with tangerines and bring them from one part of the yard to the other part and sit and eat those tangerines under the big green giant where it provided comfort and a nice cool bit of shade out of the hot sun.

Yep, I'd have to recommend an orange tree.  That was my real life giving tree.  What a lucky little girl I was.

I'd really like to know what tree you couldn't do without.  Any fond memories or amazing tastes that are absolutely essential when you consider the type of fruit you would consider a must?

Anyone with children?  Have you shared the book The Giving Tree?  As simple as it is, it's a wonderful, delightful and almost spiritual little book that I not only recommend but purchase for everyone I know who has a child and does not have that book!  It's one of those must reads for any child.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wonderful Sound of Water Features

I love water features in the garden.  Want to shut me up?  Just put me in front of a water feature like this fountain.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Black Kabouli Garbanzo Beans

This year was to be a bit of an adventure in the garden so I added to the seed collection by purchasing a series of unique items.  One such item was the Black Kabouli Garbanzo bean.  Now, I'm a relatively adventurous eater and really love international cuisine but the truth is I had no idea what on earth I was going to do with these beans once harvested.  They're still growing in the garden so thankfully, I do have a bit of time before I have to make a decision but at this point, I may be limited to some black hummus...and I'm not sure how that's going to come across at the dinner table.

Black Kabouli garbanzo seedlings before transplanting

These beans are said to have been cultivated near the fertile crescent over 6,000 years ago around.  This heirloom is brought to us from Afghanistan (by way of Seeds of Change for me).  They're noted as very drought tolerant plants and thus far have proven to be quite vigorous growers.  As with other garbanzos, these beans are high in protein.

The black seeds look almost like withered rocks.  Garbanzo beans, chickpeas and Egyptian peas are all the same.  They're said to range in a variety of colors from black, green, red and brown.  When doing a bit of research I was struck by the amount of nutrition packed inside of these little interesting legumes - rich with manganese, folate, fiber, tryptopha, protein, calcium, phosphorous and iron.

Are they one of the oldest cultivated beans?  Possibly as they were originally cultivated in the middle east but are now readily available in India and Ethiopia.

Plant Profile:  Black Kabouli Bean
Type:  Bush
Days to Maturity:  105
Preference:  Dry
Level of Difficulty:  Very Easy
Characteristics:  Clearly these plants are not fussy but probably would prefer dry soil.
Taste:  ?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Deck the Halls

You simply must watch this video.  A friend share it with me and it made me laugh so hard I absolutely had to share it further.

So many thanks to KLAATU42 in Nova Scotia, Canada for the great work.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Freezing Temps & Seed Swap

To say that I'm bamboozled by the weather is truly an understatement.  For years it's been taken for granted and I've been able to enjoy gardening before going to work and after coming home from work without much, if any, thought.  I've been known to rearrange my schedule to leave work a bit early, choosing to not take lunch during the day but instead at the end of the day just so I'd have a teeny bit of time in the garden before the sun goes down.  All of this is until the earth shifted (or whatever it calls itself doing).

Let me set the scene for you - I garden in what was formerly known as 'sunny' Southern California where 'seasons' and changes in the climate are so not our reality we often pay to be part of a changing climate  by exporting ourselves to some other part of the country when the leaves are about to turn a different color.  That's because it's generally always pretty darn sunny here.

My gardens are only steps from the beach (not literally but it's not that far).  Okay, let's just say I'm minutes from the beach so while a bit of fog may roll in on occasion, it's really not a big deal because it typically burns off by the time you have a really hot cup of tea in hand; and, we still have been able to garden throughout the entire year with that little bit of inconvenience.

Now, I'm not boastful (at least not now) but I have felt incredibly privileged as a result.  Actually, let me be quite frank, it's one of the only reasons I live here.  There - I said it. And it's the truth.  The ridiculously high taxes and inept political environment is not at all favorable but it's tolerated because of the weather.  Seriously.

So, imagine my surprise when three days ago I awoke to temperatures so low there was frost on the ground, ice on the ground and crunchy ice tinged grass.  Frost I thought?  Oh boy...no more Garlic soup before bed for me again.  I figured I was dreaming but the bone chilling cold, upon opening the door, was not mistakable.  Something happened.  Gazing out the French door I looked up to see the roof of my neighbor's garage  and thought, "Holy cow poop - it is frost!!! My seedlings!!!!  My FISH!".  Luckily, all was well as neither the fish nor the seedlings seemed too fazed by the remarkable cold although the fish did seem to have a great deal to say as the majority were near the surface moving their mouths as if in protest when I ran out to check on them.  So I plugged in their heater and proceeded to place each tray of seedlings on a heat mat. This was done while scratching my head while I tried to understand if I was still really just sleep walking...a couple of weeks ago it was record breaking temps for heat and now I'm heating up the pond?  Heavens.

This has gone on for 3 days now with today finally hitting 70 degrees again.  But, it's still too cold!

I know, I know...shut up you're probably thinking.  I know...but it really is cold - at least to me.  And now, because I missing out on that little bit of gardening time, I'm beginning to feel a little trapped so I've got to do something relative to gardening.  So on my way home I thought about a post I read where someone else conducted a swap a 6-seed swap.  So, I'm going to do the same thing.  But, I think I'll modify it just slightly and make it 6 and 12 - 6 for large seeds like melons, pumpkins, beans and corn and 12 seeds for smaller seeds like tomato, fennel, cabbage, etc.  Interested in swapping?  If so, send me a message now!  If I have another day of little to no gardening time, I'm going to be forced to do the unthinkable like watch television or something old fashioned like that.

I'll post more information with an update on the details on each variety and how well they did in the garden this year in a separate post.  But if you're interested, don't hesitate to contact me and let me know which variety you're interested in and what you're offering for trade.  

  1. Basil - Thai
  2. Basil - Genovese
  3. Basil - Fino Verde
  4. Bean - Blue Coco
  5. Bean - Royal Burgundy
  6. Carrot - Parisian Market
  7. Cat Grass - Oat Grass
  8. Celery - California Giant
  9. Coreopsis - Lance-Leaved
  10. Cucumber - Straight Eight
  11. Fennel - Bronze Fennel
  12. Gaillardia - Sundance Bicolor
  13. Lettuce - Continuity 
  14. Lettuce - Outredgeous
  15. Lettuce - Limestone
  16. Onion - Mystery Bunching
  17. Onion - Evergreen Bunching
  18. Parsnip - Hamburg
  19. Pepper - California Bell 
  20. Pepper - Big Jim 
  21. Pepper - Red Habanero
  22. Stock - Double White & Appleblossom Mix
  23. Sweet Pea - Lavender Mix
  24. Sweet Pea - Burgundy with White Splotch
  25. Tomato - Brandywine

More details forthcoming but until then, please feel free to drop me a quick email with your interests.  By the way, this swap is open to international gardening friends as well!