Thursday, April 27, 2006
A vegetable that has been a mystery plant for me is the cardoon. I ran across it in a recipe for bagna cauda, a garlic and oil recipe, into which you dip cardoons. Well the cardoons in this garden were well on their way to summer fullness. I can only hope to grow cardoons of this size.
As I say I was inspired to go to see the Herb Garden, but I ended up being enchanted by a visit to the bonsai garden and the azaleas. There was one bonsai tree that captured my heart it was a Trident Maple tree that was donated to the arboretum by Prince Takamatsu of Japan 高松宮宣仁親王. It had been in training since 1895 and the shape was so pleasingly perfect and the leaves like a baby’s hand. It was heartbreakingly beautiful.
Moreover, the wisteria were in bloom and they adorned the Japanese architectural elements exquisitely.
Next it was off to the azaleas. I was pleased to see that there was a whole section there of Polly Hill’s North Tisbury azaleas. Polly’s work is well known in Massachusetts. She began her arboretum at age 50 and has built it into a special treasure for those of us lucky enough to live nearby. I have always taken her as an inspiration of what a woman can accomplish in life after 50. I was also pleased that so many of the tangerine colored azaleas were in bloom. They are my favorite, though I’ve never had luck growing them.
After having just sent so much of my money on April 15 to a government whose decisions I don't always agree with, it was nice to be surrounded by such beauty created by my tax dollars.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
But THIS morning things were different. The spring vendors are back and the small one block market is now two full blocks. The great news is that Westmoreland Berry Farm showed up with BUCKETS of fresh asparagus and boy did I load up. I also picked up meat and eggs from Smith Meadows and then I headed over to the folks from Polyface for some chicken.
Polyface has gotten some excellent and well deserved press lately with the release of Michael Pollan’s new book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, in which he highlights the work of Joel Salatin its founder.
I will be away from Arlington during the May “Eat Local Challenge.” My Farmer’s Market would make the challenge to eat within a 100 mile radius lots easier.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I must say that their garlic is some of the healthiest I have ever seen. I think they have 1,500 head in the ground. You can tell by looking at the girth of the stalk how big the bulbs will be. They have some really excellent results. Perhaps it is due to the colloidal phosphate Jim put down last fall.
After I left, they busied themselves with transplanting everything they had under lights into larger pots. They will be eating from their garden in no time. This of course begs the issue of the VERY FULL freezer they have from last season’s bounty.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Our first nursery stop was in Covington. It is a daunting operation to run a nursery this time of year and the owner informed us that much of the work was being done for free by two friends. They had repotted 4,000 tomato plants the day before and were on their way to another 4,000 as we watched. I bought some German Johnson’s, Mortgage Lifters, and some cauliflower there as well as some harvest baskets.
Our next stop was at Longdale Nursery on VA Rte. 42 in Longdale. It is a funky little nursery with plenty for a single owner to do. The speckled swan gourds hanging from the barn to dry and the “boot planter” give it a homey feel. It was here last year that I first encountered the tomato variety Box Car Willie. It was this variety that won the blue ribbon at the Ag Fair last year. But alas there were no BCW’s to be seen. When I inquired, the owner asked if I could come back in 10 days. I explained that I would not be in the area and asked if she could pot up four seedlings for me which she did along with some Italian Sweet seedlings. Italian Sweet may be the best tomato I have ever tasted. I left Longdale a happy camper.
We stopped by the farm for lunch and then headed over the mountains to Rockbridge Baths. There we found a highly efficient floral operation at Mountain View Farm Greenhouse. I was not in the market for flowers though I did pick up a geranium. They had a good selection of herbs, and I came away with a selection of dill, sage and marjoram.
I did pick up a garden tip at Rockbridge Baths. I noticed that the watering wands in these greenhouses were all resting vertically. There were little wire nooses hanging from the tops of the greenhouses or pergolas and the head of the watering wand rested in these nooses. The owner said it really saves wear and tear on the watering wands (which they buy by the dozens) to rest them this way.
Our day of meandering through nurseries in Bath, Alleghany and Rockbridge counties in Virginia was a success.
Monday, April 17, 2006
Then the next weekend our own Phillips Collection here in Washington heralded the return of another old friend, The Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir. It has been traveling around Europe and has returned to a newly renovated gallery. I have come to treasure that painting as DC’s own … a painting that, unlike those of the National Gallery, belong not to the nation but to our city. On Easter Sunday they opened without charge, and I decided to go back and see my old friend. It is great to have it back home.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
In part this love of the hard necks is inspired by the fact that when I went to the mailbox today there was the Filaree Farm 2006 catalog. There on page 7 looking up at me with a flirtatious “come hither” look in his eye was MONTANA GIANT advertised with “consistently extra large bulbs.” Then in the next column was YOUGHIOGHENY PURPLE which is so rare it has a one pound purchase limit. I have always been aced out of these because I order too late in the season. Who is really thinking about what they can order for NEXT year when THIS year’s crop is still struggling to establish itself?
But I think after years of doing this, I have come to some conclusions.
#1 Only plant as many Rocamboles as you can eat or give away by Christmas.
#2 Concentrate on Porcelains like MUSIC PINK because of their longer storage.
#3 IF you plant soft necks, make them Silverskins for their cold climate adaptability and longer shelf life.
My seed order has gone in and here are the new varieties
Montana Giant (rocambole)
Zemo ( porcelain)
Silver White (silverskin)
Monday, April 03, 2006
I started by removing the grass. Next I sprinkled in a cup of pelletized lime and then a cup of calcium. I watered that well and then topped it off with half a bag of composted manure. I covered the roots with stones to keep them cool, and then I marked off the area with white stones. I think this should keep him from wacking away at my clematis this spring.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
My parsnips were neither as big nor as difficult to harvest as they have been in past years., I pulled up one two years ago that I think had a taproot in the aquifer. It was the size of a sperm whale. Such parsnips can get pretty woody at the core, but there is still plenty of sweet flavor around the edges.
Spring-Dug Parsnip Chowder
3 slices bacon
2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion cut into ¾ inch dice
1 pound parsnips peeled and sliced into rounds
1 pound Yukon Gold, Maine PEI or other all purpose potato peeled and cut into ¾ inch dice
3cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups heavy cream ( I use skim milk)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. In a 4 quart heavy pot over low heat cook the bacon. Leave the fat in the pot and reserve the cooked bacon until later.
2. Over medium heat add butter and onions and sauté until onions is tender but not browned 6-8 minutes.
3. Add parsnips and potatoes and stir. Then add the broth and turn the heat up to a boil and cook vigorously for 12 minutes. Reduce heat to low
4. Remove 2 cups of the chowder from the pot and puree in food processor or blender, and return to the pot. Let the chowder simmer slowly for another 5 minutes; the broth should look silky-smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Let the chowder sit for an hour to meld the flavors. Season with salt and paper to taste.
5. When ready to serve reheat over low heat; don’t allow it to boil. Warm the crumbled bacon in a 200 degree oven for a few minutes.
6. Ladle the chowder into cups and scatter the bacon over the individual servings. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley
from 50 Chowders by Jasper White