Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Post Trump Tulip Disorder (PTTD)

This has been my tulip spring. I ordered and planted them around Trump time. We all did strange things, then. In the central vegetable plot (tulips are edible, was my reasoning) they provided an April burst of glory after that November shock, when nothing good ever seemed possible, again.

 Tall, graceful and long lasting: these are 'Impression' cultivars - a mix of three, ordered from Dutch Bulbs.

But this tulip - purchased in the same order - puzzled me.

While its petals were pleasingly parrot shaped, especially early on (above), and the plants bore more than one flower as the weeks passed - which is very unusual for a tulip -  the flat red did not thrill me. Why did I choose them? Impulse buying too late at night, online? Too much Trump? Was the Cheeto orange rubbing off?

Only when I sat down to write this post did I realize that these tulips were a mistake. And not mine. Checking my emailed receipts, I saw that they should have been a cultivar called 'Dragon King:' elegantly tall, pink, a pale yellow stripe up every other sheathed petal. But those never arrived. The red ones did, and I planted them. Bulbs look like bulbs. I will let Dutch Bulbs know and I am sure they will fix it, retroactively

From Brent and Becky's came the smaller flowered but stupendously long lasting (four weeks) 'Queen of the Night.' They are still in bloom, shedding petals, now. As the flowers matured, they became blacker. I will buy them again.

Also from Brent and Becky's a long limbed white bloom, 'Clearwater,' which flowered for a long time mixed with the ostrich ferns - all-morning shade, about four hours of sun from 1pm-ish onwards (pssst - notice the gravel in the last two pictures? That's another story...).

Another Brent and Becky's selection was 'Golden Apeldoorn,' planted in shadier spots and blooming among the Heuchera and cinnamon ferns. It gave a pop of colour where it was needed.

Now the garden's season has turned to columbines - the plants gifted to me by my garden designer friend Julia Miller; and alliums and camassia are blooming. The Solomon's seal still looks spectacular. The wisteria is just about over (I picked the flowers and made syrups, vinegars, gin and pancakes) and the Boston ivy wall on the opposite side has been attacked by a terrible blight (all the rain we had, I think) causing its leaves to crisp and fall. Potted hydrangeas and elder are going gangbusters and the new wasabi plants from Oregon are steadily shoving out tiny leaves

I can't wait to eat them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Central Park Forage Walk

Black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia

Central Park 
20 May 2017
12.30pm - 2.30pm

After a seasonally scrambled start to the year spring is barreling into early summer in the northern wilds of Central Park. The woods and fields are filled with edible wild plants, from black locust flowers to lambs quarters and sumac.

                                                  Flowering raspberry, Rubus odoratus

There is a rich combination here of invasive and indigenous trees, shrubs and perennials, and this is an ideal inner urban escape where we can talk about how they interact in nature and in the kitchen. Learn to identify what is edible and what is not, and afterwards enjoy a taste of some of the wild things we have just seen.

              Details will be emailed to confirmed walkers upon sign up.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Last call for arugula flowers

These flowers belong to the arugula I planted last fall. The plants were extremely tenacious, lasting right through winter and feeding us until just a few days ago, when I pulled them out. Yes, I did feel bad.

I let them bloom because I love their unassuming, four petaled flowers on tall, tall stems, and because I thought the honey bees might love them, too. The honey bees did not. Slow to arrive, they have now been visiting the allium flowers and ignoring the brassicas. Maybe they know something I do not?

So the arugula came out, making way for baby spinach and lettuces. A fresh arugula sowing will take place later in the week (I save up gardening as a reward for book work done). This crop has performed so well in the vegetable plot that I began to take it for granted and am now caught with my arugula pants down: we have none. For a salad addict that is just frightening.

The lettuces should be afraid. Very, very afraid.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

June Forage Walk

Prospect Park
11 June 2017 
12 pm - 2pm

Early summer brings the Big Green to city parks. Trees are in luxuriant leaf, ground elder is in bloom, cup plants are climbing skywards and mugwort is taking over the world. 

Early June is elderflower time - we'll talk about how to make elderflower cordial and bubbly. It is easy to grow at home, too. 

June is also the harbinger of tilia (linden) blossom - where for ten to fourteen days in the year New York actually smells fantastic.

We walk, talk, scratch and sniff (plants, not each other) and gather at the end for a picnic of wild tastes.

A confirmation email with more details will be sent to signed up walkers in the week before the walk.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Fleeting spring, and flowers are flying

Tuesday evening.

What's in the glass? Red chokeberry syrup, gin and fir and fir gin. Shaken up.

One of the garden's garlic crops in the foreground - I planted several late last year, in different microclimates in the vegetable plot (even a few feet this way or that make a mound of difference in terms of sunlight). Safe to say this one was an interesting but technical failure. Tiny bulbs, a little larger than thumb sized, and the greens so peaky I pulled them now. But perfectly formed and very sweet. The others are very robust, thankfully. These cloves were planted from store bought organic garlic bulbs. I have chopped them up finely into our chicken wing supper where they join some ramps - a gift from my Gowanus garden friend, who popped in late this afternoon with a beautiful bunch of milkweed shoots for me.

Friends have been very helpful with forages for my recipe testing. Having wild things arrive at my door has allowed me to save some time as I deal with the mad flood of spring deliciousness that demands to be collected, cleaned, cooked, photographed and written up.

We have wisteria blossoms this year. I pruned the huge, old vine that tops our English ivy fence hard, last year. It still threatens to take over the world. Sweet, scented and edible, I am catching as many as I can to enjoy later in the season (note that the green wisteria 'beans' are poisonous). Then there was the cataract of ramps from our friend Steven Schwartz, proprietor of Delaware Valley Ramps. Pickled, salted, turned into oils and butters, and eaten fresh, too. Lots of processing and preserving happening.

Inbetween this and that, a gravel path has been laid in the garden, lettuces have been planted, fiddlehead tarts have been baked (in Quebec, no less - we flew north briefly for a Canadian mother's birthday), and squirrel varmints have been chastised soundly: the little [... bleeped out...] have eaten every last green fig on my tree. That was the breba crop - no doubt they will do the same with the main crop that appears on new, green growth. I may net it.

Last night the Frenchman and I sat in the garden after landing at La Guardia and sipped drinks in air that said autumn, rather than spring. It is crisp, cool and dry, inbetween torrential rainfalls.

Two more forage walks with picnics happen over the next two weekends, a TV crew comes to visit, and another dozen recipes will be come to light. Spring is good.

And if I am not here, you can find me daily on Instagram, @66squarefeet.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wild Salmon in your Belly

I should be writing about my garden and here I am writing fish. It happens.

Backstory: The Frenchman and I eat very little fish. I would like to eat more. It's wonderful to cook with and it is healthy. But it is not that easy, even in this Biggest of Apples, to find fish that is ethically sourced and caught. It is simpler to know where meat comes from than it is fish. Fish are the last free roaming wild thing that we are ripping out of the ocean by the ton. And the collateral damage (to use war-speak) or tamely named 'by catch' - the other critters that are swept up or killed in nets - is deleterious (if you care about conservation, and that is a whole other philosophical conversation). Then there are fish farms, of course, but you really, really need to do your homework to figure which ones are not causing more harm than good.

In local bluefish and mackerel season we are on them. Strong fish that are good on barbecues. And we love locally caught trout.

Gabrielle Langholtz, my friend, and former editor at Edible magazine (as well as author of The New Greenmarket Cookbook), introduced me last year to the family-owned Iliamna Fishing Company, based out of Alaska. Once a year out they go in their boats and catch wild sockeye salmon. The fish are cleaned, flash frozen and packaged on board. For eight years that catch has been sold to local customers, using a community supported fishery (CSF) model. They also sell in Oregon markets (Portland, Eugene and Wilamette Valley), and New York City.

Last October I cycled to pick up our first share from the Red Winery in Brooklyn. Yes, the winery is on New York Harbor, no there are not grape vines on site.

The 12lb share of salmon costs $204. I know that is a lot of money. But we received nine sides of gorgeous red sockeye salmon. It works out to $22 a side. Which is less than you would pay  for wild salmon in a store, for considerably higher quality. I still have four sides in the freezer.

I have grilled it, poached it, made gravlax (above)...

...and recently a roast salmon spring dashi with ramps, Japanese knotweed and morels (recipes will be in my the wild foods cookbook, yay!).

It is the best salmon I have ever eaten.

I am writing about it now because I just received the email from Iliamna saying that now is the time to sign up for a 2017 share. You pay half up front, which keeps the fishery's show on the road. On pick up in October you pay the balance.

I am rarely enthused enough to tell people to go out and buy something, but this is one of those times. If you live in those hoods. There are other CSF's out there, now, so do some Googling if you live elsewhere and are interested in learning more about where the fish you eat comes from.

In other news, there is one spot left on my Central Park ramble on May 20th and four left on the Inwood Hill Park foray on May 13th. We will not be fishing, but hunting for edible invasives and learning about delectable native plants. And having a picnic, of course. Because life is too short not to picnic.

Hey (idea strikes)! Maybe I'll make some potted salmon with ramp salt to spread on nettle sourdough!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Spring salad

Spring is happening all at once. Foraging is in full swing, and so is the garden. In this wild salad are a collection of ephemeral wild foods: tender violet leaves, winter cress, jewelweed seedlings, ground elder (goutweed), sheep sorrel (actually, that's around all year) and garlic mustard. Strong flavours.

I must post garden pictures, soon (I think I need an intern - but I am terrible at delegating). I am taking hundreds of pictures, all of which need sorting, categorizing, editing. More time, please.

The violets in the garden are almost over, the Solomon's seal has opened its bell flowers, ostrich ferns have fluffed out, the near black Persian fritillaria look beautiful, the purple elder shrub has already set buds, and the Trump Tulips are nearing the end of their appropriately loud season.

Spring forage walks: there are two spots left on the Central Park walk on May 20th, and there is still space left on the recently added Inwood Hill Park Walk. See below for booking.


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