April Dazzled! Technicolor greens and yellows abounded and now in early May, the tulips are up, and flowering trees beckon our gaze: weeping cherries and magnolias, hawthorne and redbud, and grass- just green grass and unfurling ferns and skunk cabbage make me happy after so many months of bleak winter hues. After all that brown and white, it’s almost gaudy.
About the garden: this year I have approximately half the space I had last year as my friends/landlords and I have divided the space rather than attempting to co-garden. Experience has taught me that gardening is a sort of art form and styles and approaches are as variable as people themselves. While I felt a little resistant to this plot division at first, it really is a good thing given that fact that last year’s 50′ x 50′ space encompassed my life, becoming a certain kind of addiction from whence I struggled to pull away for work and other necessary activities. I felt most at home in there, feet and hands in the dirt with clear, step-by-step duties set forth with calculable beginnings and ends. “More water!” it screamed to me, a living organism, and “more weeding, planting, mulching, transplanting, thinning!” Every time a new space opened I planted another crop as it was my goal to try as many varieties of vegetables as possible. I pushed planting dates out a little too far, but hey, they’re just seeds so I’ll experiment, I said. I made some obvious mistakes such as not realizing Brussels sprouts and parsnips had to planted in May and that companion planting, as dreamy as it is, if not adhered to with religious ferocity will not mean the end of the world as we know it. Ed Smith (Vegetable Gardener’s Bible) haunted me with his cheerful, cavalier suggestions for growing everything from celeriac to okra (this I might add, I did not attempt but this year will with a lovely heirloom red-colored variety) and glossy photos of perfect crops as every biblical insect plague befell us from flea beetles to potato bugs to several kinds of genocidal, madly munching cabbage worms. Powdery mildew took the cucumbers (although this was toward the end of their production boon), root maggots invaded the zucchini and butternut squash, and blight took out all but a few cherry tomatoes. I emailed photos of my withering potato tops to my farmer friend and he diagnosed them with leaf hopper burn for which I attempted in vain to treat with neem oil spray. Despite the plagues, there was a surfeit of good delicious stuff to eat and then that became another layer of pressure. What to do with all this food? I gave a lot away which was wonderful, but I also worried (an abnormal amount) about wasting it. “I hope you’re eating radishes!” I’d call to Chris, followed by “The beet greens should be sauteed tonight… and there’s kale! You could take it for lunch!” We still in fact have bush beans in the freezer and pickles in our fridge, the health of which may be in question at this point, and we still have picked jalapeños and (obviously I grew too many as this is their second mention) radishes. Ian Knaur clearly throws a lot of cocktail parties for very hungry hipsters because it was his book which inspired this recipe, a great thing to throw on the table while you’re preparing the official hors d’oeuvres. But this year I quite like the restraint and limits less dirt imposes; less crop varieties, less to tend to, harvest, cook and fret over wasting. I will not be planting things every day in some bizarre obsession with succession planting. I will relax more with it. Grow less stuff. Cabbage is definitely off the list as is cauliflower and broccoli. On the list:bush beans, butternut squash, watermelon, cukes, maybe turnips and rutabaga, collards, brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, pumpkin, zucchini and herbs. Also flowers: geraniums nasturtiums, cosmos, zinnia, poppies, sunflowers and morning glories. At least that is the plan here and now as of May 6th.
The other difference this year: everything from seed. I have never started seeds indoors so it’s a fun experiment. I had to buy a heating mat to germinate the peppers, tomatoes and eggplant and then once they did, I put them in the windowsills (or outside) in pursuit of light. They’re still rather small so we shall see if this works. If not, come planting time around Memorial Day, I will buy some plants. I was just so excited in late March to take out the seeds.
I purchased two jumbo and three smaller carrot grow bags made of what appears to be a thick porous felt and is in fact a reusable polyurethane. We made our own soil mix for them out of equal parts peat moss, sand and loam and then mixed in a generous amount of compost and added some fertilizer. Note: handsome man and handsome new wheelbarrow. One of many amazing birthday gifts.
I bought these gorgeous purple seed potatoes and a rose gold variety. And I planted three kinds of carrots, one of which came in these super handy seed strips to cut down on thinning. Like last year, we’re experiencing a dry spring so even a thick layer of salt marsh hay helps keep the soil moist for germination, It’s just starting now and it’s been two weeks. Come mid-summer and the second planting when conditions are really hot, I’ll have Chris make me a circular piece of wood to go on top- this is what finally worked last year, a two by four placed on the seeds for seven days so those lacy miniscule carrot tops could punch through. Carrots can be tough to germinate but easy to grow. How I love my roots!
This year’s planting dates thus far:
- April 1st: seeds indoors: 4 varieties of tomatoes, tomatillos, 2 varieties of eggplant, black beauty zucchini squash, 2 varieties of watermelon (only one survived), cucumber
- April 15th: swiss chard
- April 16th: lettuce, 4 varieties chard, 3 varieties kale, arugula, 3 varieties mustard greens, nasturtium, poppies, radish
- April 17th: 5 varieties of beets
- April 19th: sugar cherry tomatoes and lipstick peppers (inside)
- April 21: Blue potatoes and carrots outside
Scabby’s been a great garden companion, soakin’ up the rays.
And since we’re gearing up for lots of berries (starting with blue) and plenty of freezer fillers, we’re cleaning out from last year’s plenty. Hence, the triple berry coconut crisp. Grain and gluten free.
Coconut Berry Crisp (adapted from the almond flour cookbook by Elana Amsterdam)
- 5 cups (or 30 oz) berries (we used black raspberries, raspberries and blueberries.
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbs. raw honey
- 1 tsp. liquid stevia
- 2 Tbs. arrowroot powder
Ingredients for topping:
- 1 cup blanched almond flour
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil (melted over low heat)
- 1/4 cup raw honey
Preheat oven to 350•. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with grapeseed oil. (As you can see we used a larger baking dish as we didn’t have this size…)
To make the filling, place frozen berries in baking dish, and gently toss to combine with lemon juice, honey, stevia and arrowroot powder. Bake for 40-50 minutes until slightly thickened.
To make the topping: combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Whisk honey and melted coconut oil together and then stir into the dry ingredients until coarsely blended and crumbly. Sprinkle over the fruit.
Bake for 20 minutes until the topping is golden brown and juices bubbling. Let the crisp cool for 30 minutes.