Monday, May 23, 2016

The Grow Journey season shifts at Chez 66

Here we are, in May's final stretch. The 10 x 10 vegetable plot in the middle of Chez 66 is producing daily salads. The Grow Journey spinach 'Verdil' - such a baby just the other day, is now sending up flower heads. When I bump one, an eruption of improbable pollen rises several inches and drifts away. I pick the bolting stalks as fast as I can, and we eat them in nightly salads. They are also very good wilted quickly in a hot pan and used as a bed for a poached egg. The leaves are still lush and upright, and just a few have been bothered by leaf miners (I pick those leaves and throw them far, far away, where the sun don't shine).

Nearby, the first sowing of arugula is trying very hard to flower and I won't let it. The upright budding stems are very peppery and good, raw.

The last of the garden cress has been eaten and the remnants tilled into the soil as a very light green manure - any organic matter helps, here. I have to re-water our abused soil often, as it loses moisture fast. And what about fertilizer? I have not used any, unless you count the many pounds of crushed oyster shell to raise pH. Last fall's soil test revealed high phosphorus levels, so someone before me fertilized a lot. And I am discovering that the use of fertilizer should never be automatic: This blogpost from Grow Journey is enlightening.

Now the upland cress is flourishing and I mix it with the pretty beet greens ('Early Wonder Tall Top') for bagel toppings and stuffing for breakfast omlets/omelettes.

What's next? I have sown the Seeds-of-the-Month dill 'Goldkrone' and it has risen in a spiny little row. Thai basil and garden huckleberry (actually a variety of Solanum nigrum) are in a seed tray and soon I must transplant them. The basil will go into pots as I do not trust the European starlings to leave it alone, but the Solanum must go in-ground into the sunniest part of the plot, where it will be joined by some cherry tomatoes from Grow Journey as well as their beautiful 'Painted Pony' beans. When the arugula comes out.

Sun. I have to make myself remember The Dark of Winter. Because right now the whole garden is in sunlight as the rising Northern sun clears the tall townhouse. Closest to the house the shade begins again by late morning, while the back stays in sun more or less all day. In late fall, winter and early spring, not a ray of sun pierces our gloom.

It is challenging to choose the right plans for this space. But now I pretend that we are Alaska. Night, and then day, and then the longest night, again.

What did you plant today?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A long table

Supper outside last night, on our new table from Rustic Productions on Etsy (if you visit the link, ours is a newly-built version of the 'very rustic' sale item table - $350, made from reclaimed oak). It would have had six legs, which didn't look right to me, and Deena and Paul very kindly modified it with a reinforced center section. It shipped in three boxes from Ohio. Amazing Internet.

 We are very happy with it. Having space to spread out is wonderful.

As we ate and it grew dark the possum climbed back over the fence towards us, climbed down, snuck around the side, crossed the garden and went about its business...

Friday, May 20, 2016

Chez Possum?

A swearing squirrel drew me to the screen door. And there I saw, walking across the garden in May daylight, the possum. So I fetched my camera. The sheep says, What the f-f-f-f-f-f-u-u-u-u-u-...?

I didn't got too close, just in case it was sick, and after it got over the frozen-possum attitude, it high-tailed it (low tailed it?) up the fence.

And back down, after thinking about it for a bit. It drooled a little on the way down, which worried me, but I have looked it up, and that is what possums do when stressed. Opossums are very resistant to rabies, apparently.

Then it sprinted across Carlos' yard to its hole in the shed.

Who needs to go camping in Africa?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I have always wanted to grow ornamental alliums, and now I do. In Cape Town, my mom has used leeks to similar effect. Most of the alliums have been fine but a few curled up on themselves and did not produce flowers. Their bulbs are blue with mold.

I have learned new things in this, our third New York garden, and the first in-ground. That squirrels eat viburnum blossoms. That European starling love herbs - parsley, summer savory and fenugreek have been decimated.

No one bothers the salad leaves - arugula, spinach, mache, upland cress, an Asian mustard, mesclun, peas, fava greens. Which is good, because we eat them every night.

We have learned that a raccoon uses the utility wires highway strung from pole to pole in our backyards as a suspension bridge. We saw one in the dark, the other night, walking the highwire. And the possum comes nosing round at ground level, from Carlos and Rose's side. Without our own animal to watch, we watch the other animals, like campers at a watering hole.

The formidable Rose passed away recently. We did not know, our neighbor Carlos told me, through the fence. We can now grow flowers on that fence. He says that there is a kitty in her house, which he helps feed. It shows itself to no one. He likes cats.

I am searching for a better name for this garden. Chez Mosquito feels too aggressive. Although, we did swat out first skeeter, today. Any suggestions? Short, catchy, accurate. No pressure. It needs a label for easy filing. Chez 66? Our new table is just a bit bigger than our first terrace (isn't that COOL!?). Hardly seems possible.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hot, fiery and bold

...and I mean dinner!

Actually a very rustic supper. I was testing a recipe idea for an article. Despite its appearance it was delicious. A few more tweaks and we'll be there.

In one pan shallots and a few ramps were cooked slowly in unscented oil, with black bean paste and a lot of dried chile. In another I browned some humanely raised pork. Meanwhile I cooked till just tender, young pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) shoots - they are ready to eat now, in our hood. The pork was added to the spicy onion mixture, and I stirred in a spoonful of Kiyoko's wonderful sansho miso paste (sansho is Japanese Sichuan  - Zanthoxylum piperatum, and she used the leaves and seeds). Finally I added the cooked pokeweed stems.

It was powerful, but pokeweed is very juicy and mild, and works well with serious heat.

In other forage-related news, today I strained and bottled two liters of rhubarb-spruce syrup, three liters of autumn olive flower cordial (very fizzy - if you hear a muffled boom it is Brooklyn, exploding) and a liter of pine tip-dandelion flower cordial - only fizzy after I added some of the dregs of my milkweed cordial for last year; that yeast was still alive and kick started the sulky pine tip infusion. Fascinating! (I know, I am talking myself.)


Sunday, May 15, 2016


I was thrilled to receive this wonderful surprise-gift yesterday from my friend Kiyoko, who has attended several of my forage walks, and who joined us yesterday in Inwood: Unripe ume (Prunus mume) - very hard to find.

Don't eat them raw, said Kiyoko. You will die.

She also provided a recipe for making ume syrup - you pack them in sugar, after pricking holes in each fruit and turning them every day. They will ferment, a little. I am very excited. Last year Kiyoko gave me a gift of her own homemade ume syrup and it was delicious. Also good for sore throats, she says.

In other preserving and fermenting tales, I must bottle my by-now-very-fizzy-after-8-days autumn olive flower cordial as well as the decidedly-not-fizzy rhubarb cordial and a pine-tip and dandelion cordial. Each tastes very much of the chief ingredient, but of course the bubbles are the most fun.

There is one more spring forage walk - Fort Tryon, this Saturday. After a catastrophic commute to the one in Inwood, I may leave at daybreak to beat the MTA (Metropolitan Transport Authority) at its own game.

Other news? We now have a seven foot long table in the garden. Pictures to follow.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lucky leaves

A Friday-the-13th bowl of green goodness, just picked from the rained-on vegetable plot here at Chez Mosquito. In the bowl? Arugula buds and leaves (I sowed the second crop just ten days ago as the first thinks of bolting), fava bean tips, pea shoots, sheep sorrel (kidnapped in a snow flurry from the Catskills last year and flourishing here) and my own mugwort. Yes, I know - it seems odd to grow a 'weed,' but I like having my own supply.

The leaves will help to fill Vietnamese-style summer rolls for tomorrow's Inwood wild foods walkalong with foraged indigenous Sichuan pepper (Zanthoxylum americanum) leaves, burdock root, winter cress and garlic mustard flowers. The rest will be salad for tonight's supper (with mushroom pizza). The mugwort is about to be made into a fresh herb salt for hard boiled quails eggs, another walk snack. The other tidbits include rolled pokeweed tea sandwiches with miso-mayo and mahlab cookies.

Now...will it rain? We don't know. If I have to cancel the Frenchman and I will have a pretty fabulous picnic.

The last walk of spring, by the way, is on May 21st, at Fort Tryon. If you're good, I'll bring prosecco.

Happy weekend!

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