Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lunch From the Garden

Last week I had a lunch meeting with my friend Cassandra. She set a fine table and we ate alfresco on her back porch. A perfect Friday afternoon. I brought a salad of Black Seeded Simpson, Romaine lettuce, Rouge d'Hiver and tender pea shoots. Fresh chunks of feta cheese, pita bread, hummus, and poppy seed dressing accompanied the meal.

Delicious food certainly makes a meeting lots more fun.

I harvested our salad this morning from this bed, one of three rows. These winter sowed lettuces I planted late October 2011 are still being consumed today. Amazing that these plants have been in the ground for 6+ months. This 12' salad bed provided food for our family, friends, and to some who've lost their jobs.

I try and plan ahead... gardening is all about timing. To keep a fresh supply of greens on the table I planted another bed (see below) of chard, bok choi and kale early April. They'll be on the family menu in the next few weeks. After this harvest, I'll plant tomatoes, herbs and warm weather greens in the same bed.

Luckily I planted extra bok choi... the vegetable weevils thought the bok choi was delicious too!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Transplanting Herbs, Tomatoes, Peppers

Cinnamon basil, English sorrel, summer savory

It was 85 (!) in Chicago last week when I went over to Bruce's to transplant herbs from their starting containers into larger ones. Given the bizarre temperatures, I transplanted a few but decided to bring most of them home to plant directly into the south-facing window boxes they thrive in.

Basil for everyone 
(you can never have too much or too many varieties)
Sadly, we had zero germination 
on the culantro (ngo gai)

Poor germination too on the Renee's Garden free seeds Debbie shared. These were originally donated to a children's garden program. 

Sure hope those kids had better luck than we did.

Tomatoes and peppers, still under lights last week but now being hardened off in preparation for planting out into SIPs. Who the heck knows when the last frost date in Chicago is anymore. It might have been 4 months ago.

Lettuces in an Earthbox on the roof. Look at those colors.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Glazed Strawberries

Thanks to ngmpix for the photo.
I made these the other day, a recipe/technique from Jacques Pepin, and walked around the neighborhood giving them away.  The contrast between the thin hard candy shell and the ripe strawberry makes for a nice treat.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 6 to 8 drops lemon juice or 1/2 tsp creme of tarter mixed in 1 tsp of cold water
  • 1 pound ripe strawberries (conventional are full of pesticides, so try to use organic)

Oil a tray very lightly. If the strawberries are not clean, wash them gently and dry them thoroughly.

To glaze the berries: Put sugar and cool water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until a candy thermometer registers between 310°F and 320°F degrees, the 'hard-crack' stage.  This will be about 15 minutes after the mixture comes to a boil.  To check the temp without a candy thermometer dip a teaspoon in the mixture, lift it and dip in a glass of cold water right away. If the mixture sets hard on the spoon, it's at the hard-crack stage.

An unlined copper pan--and who doesn't have one of those laying around--tends to prevent sugar from crystallizing. If (!) unavailable, add 6 to 8 drops of lemon juice/creme of tartar mixture to the syrup when it is almost cooked to prevent crystallization.

Tip the pan to the side to get the syrup deep enough to dip strawberries, one at a time, into the hot syrup, coating about a third to half of each berry.

Set the coated berries on the oiled tray. The sugar will harden around them in 10-15 minutes. Set aside until serving time.


Use ripe strawberries, preferably with stems so you can hold them easily as you dip them into the hot, liquid sugar. Be sure the berries are dry so they do not splatter, and proceed carefully.

Use the melted sugar right away to ensure the shell of sugar crusted around the berries will be thin. The hot sugar will partially cook the ripe berries. Within 15 to 20 minutes, the berries will release some juice, which will begin to melt the shell of sugar, so try not to glaze more than 1 hour before serving.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Kindness Boomerang

 A nice way to start your day... enjoy.