Friday, September 28, 2007

Life makes a turn on the path

I happened to land at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan this week. By chance. It is a place I had long meant to visit. Although not under these circumstances.
We choose the path that has heart. It is not the easiest path to take.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tomatoes, we have tomatoes

I don't know what to do with all the tomatoes!

Herb planted his usual 16 or so plants... Fourth of July, Early Girl, Celebrity, Brandywine, Big Boy, Viva Italia, Sweet 100, and a new one (for us) this year, Principe Borghese, a drying tomato.
Even with the damaging hail in June, it would have been plenty. More than plenty.

But the CSA farmer we are participating with is supplying us with her plenty as well, and I am running out of ideas!

(Hi Pat! Doesn't she have a pretty set-up!)

I took some to the relatives, and gave some to the kids. Froze some whole, made sauce to freeze, and dried a couple of quarts in my dehydrator.

My favorite recipe to diminish the bounty is to cook Sweet 100s into a topping for bruschetta. I vary it with a variety of cheeses and different herbs, but always like rosemary the very best. I'll find a copy of the recipe and post it later.

Anyway, my Master Gardener friend Francine mentioned making catsup last week when I was at the farmers' market picking up my CSA share. (She was at the MG table, offering advice to the crowd. I always stop to ask 'what is the question of the day?' lately it's been Japanese Beetles. uGGH!)

The word catsup sparked a creative synapse in my mind, so here is a catsup recipe I played around with last week, it's easy and fast ... and it tastes pretty good too.

I had red and yellow tomatoes from Pat, so the catsup turned out a burnished orange color, quite pretty!

Roasted Tomato Catsup

1 1/2 - 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, remove stems ends and cut in half
3 -4 tablespoons sunflower oil, divided

1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place tomatoes in an oiled casserole and brush tops with oil. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until they begin to carmelize on top.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until translucent.
If your tomatoes are homegrown and therefore truly ripe, they will produce a lot of extra juice, so transfer them with a slotted spoon to a blender and process until smooth. (Refrigerate the juice for other use.) Add the tomato puree to the remaining ingredients in the saucepan and continue cooking, uncovered for 20 t0 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until thick. Refrigerate and USE it!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Beautiful Veggies and Flikr Updates

Theresa just posted some cool pics (link) of the Home Street Demo Veggie Garden over on her blog. I must say, 'the beautiful veggie garden' is really producing vegetables... difficult weather, late start, and Doubting Thomases (me) aside!
The seminar we presented to meet with the neighbors and showcase the garden to the Land Bank worked out great! Next year will be even better :) Congratulations and "a job well done" to Theresa, Phil, Mel, Sharron, Helen and Erin and Thanks to our sponsors, Keep Genesee County Beautiful, the Genesee County Land Bank and the Applewood Gardening Initiative.

Also, I'm going to add my gardening project photos to one general gardening "set" on my free Flikr account, but it'll take time and I can only add a certain amount per month (unless I upgrade to the paid account.) For you to look at the pictures in my Flikr set you need to double click on any of the flikerin' the photos right there IN the tag, right.
When you link to the Flikr page, there should be a "set" called Herb Sampler that you can click through with the arrows, or view as a slide show. If you'd like to see a nice larger picture of any photo you see, click on it from the set. Pretty easy. I've also added some pretty pics of one of the Genesee County Herb Society's continuing herb garden project - the Doctor's Herb Garden at Crossroads Village. More to come!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a rich but lowly weed

After weeding, weeding, weeding the purslane out of the vegetable beds that we built from fresh compost at the Home Street garden, fellow gardener Mel sent the following pertinent article to our little gardening group, supporting what I'd been telling everyone about the lowly weed we were discarding, Portulaca oleracea.
Purslane. My friend Milli calls it 'pusley' and won't eat it because of the name... but purslane has the richest concentration of omega-3 fatty acid of any vegetable source.
I've been adding fresh purslane as a green garnish to fajitas and baba ganoush for some time, and lately had the inspiration to add it to stir frys, at the last minute to keep it from melting away from the heat of the frying pan.
My friend Sharron tells me she puts purslane in omlets, which is traditionally a Mexican recipe.
Even my CSA farm has been adding purslane to the salad greens in our shares, urging us to find ways to use this healthy little green.

If you can put a little 'pursley' in your diet, I urge you try it... it is one of the richest vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids. You never need to plant it, and if you pick it from healthy soil in your garden, you can skip the heavy metals and other pollution that come to you in omega-3 rich fish from the market.

Purslane can be used in variety of dishes
by Leslie Land
New York Times Service
Saturday, August 25, 2007

QUESTION: I have a tabbouleh recipe that calls for purslane, but

the only purslane I know is the horrible weed I battle every year
in my garden. Is it really edible, or is the recipe calling for some-
thing else?

ANSWER: Lebanese cooks know that the horrible weed Portulaca

oleracea has just the right brightly acid flavor and crisp juicy
texture to be delicious in tabbouleh.

Purslane appears in Japanese pickles, Mexican stews and Indian

curries. It's also used in the cuisines of France, Russia, Malaysia
and Manhattan, where chefs have been playing with it for years.

The chefs are probably using cultivated purslanes such as garden

and golden, which have more upright growth, larger leaves and
more toothsome stems than your (lifetime) opponent. And unlike
the weed, they are easy to clean.

But cultivated purslanes are also likely to become weeds before

long, so unless you too have a restaurant you might prefer sticking
with the one you've got instead of adding more.

And you might want to stick with eating it raw. Cooked purslane

is as mucilaginous as okra.

On the other hand, it shrinks when heated, so if you eat it cooked

you can eat more of it. Purslane is a powerhouse of vitamins,
minerals and the kinds of fatty acids that justify fish oil.

Portulaca oleracea is used in many ethnic cuisines for its brightly

acidic flavor.
So today I googled purslane and found this abstract...
(Journal of the American College of Nutrition)

Common purslane: a source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants
A. P. Simopoulos, H. A. Norman, J. E. Gillaspy and J. A. Duke
Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington, DC 20009.

omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-tocopherol, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene and glutathione determined in leaves of purslane (Portulaca oleracea), grown in both a controlled growth chamber and in the wild, were compared in composition to spinach. Leaves from both samples of purslane contained higher amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (18:3w3) than did leaves of spinach. Chamber-grown purslane contained the highest amount of 18:3w3. Samples from the two kinds of purslane contained higher leaves of alpha-tocopherol, ascorbic acid and glutathione than did spinach. Chamber-grown purslane was richer in all three and the amount of alpha-tocopherol was seven times higher than that found in spinach, whereas spinach was slightly higher in beta-carotene. One hundred grams of fresh purslane leaves (one serving) contain about 300-400 mg of 18:3w3; 12.2 mg of alpha-tocopherol; 26.6 mg of ascorbic acid; 1.9 mg of beta-carotene; and 14.8 mg of glutathione. We confirm that purslane is a nutritious food rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Blog update

I finally took some time to figure out how to Flickr, though I'm just a beginner Flickr-oo or Flickreeno or whatever they call it. See the photo flickering tag on the right side of the screen? If you double click on it you can see some of the photos that I uploaded. (I also posted a set from the Doctor's Herb Garden at Crossroads Village which is a Genesee County Herb Society volunteer project.)

You can Flickr too, if you have a website or blog, or just like to have a cool spot to park your photos. A limited account is free.

A neat feature is the searchable map ... it can be a time consuming form of entertainment, though. I looked at wonderful photos of the Acropolis today, and Manitou Island, and the Burning Man Festival. No wonder it's already noon!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

more backyard wildlife

The bees and butterflies and hummingbirds are nutty about my back corner - tall yellow agastache, obedience, 'Tina James' primrose, and silphium, a.k.a. cup plant, must have some magical allure...
The sky was clear summer Michigan blue on Sunday when I took this shot - something to remember come dull overcast Michigan February. Everything to its season.

No tale to tell, just a photo. Remember, click the photo to enlarge it. But do you dare... who wants bigger spiders?!

And I see this little gal out in the side yard quite often... she's camouflaged pretty well in this sedum.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

to a Wee mousie

So today I'm out in my herb garden pulling catnip plants. It was too easy to let them grow, thinking I might dry some for the resident cats, but these self-sown volunteer plants have had a banner year, growing tall and wide, and now they are in flower. The decision to pull is easy: I'm sure to find a few seedlings next spring, and if I don't act boldly now, I will have nothing but a catnip jungle next year, ga-ran-teed! So, I hack my way back to the bee skep artfully placed on the floor of the hops arbor... do you see anything amiss?

Not bees under the skep...

It looks to be composed of grass, dryer lint, unknown mammal fur... a nest...
Look carefully_
Can you see her? This is about as good a photo as I could get on short notice... she's hiding in the duff under the deck. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can make out a large ear, mommy, and a small ear, baby.
She was exceedingly noiseless, the several babies stayed "attached" as she jumped out of the nest, and when I returned to the garden with my camera she was wary and shy, and well camouflaged.

Funny thing, she'd built her nest under the bee skep on a deck right next to the huge catnip plant, and my brave feline hunters never found her... do you think the odor of the catnip, or even the hops, lulled their feline senses and provided her a natural defense?

Of course, me being me, I had to Google The Scottish Bard...

I agree with Our Rabbie: let wee Mousie live, and her brood. Winter'll come soon enough, and only if she comes indoors will she have to deal with me then.

Robert Burns (1759–1796). Poems and Songs.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

To a Mouse

WEE, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
’S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell—
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!