Archive for April, 2009

Hunting Black Morels – first of the season

As we were spooning in the eggs with asparagus and black morels I was just going on about yesterday, Bill mentioned that he should maybe say something about how to find the blacks  – they’re a bit trickier than the main season blondes, but they have a special savor for being the first.

“Have at it! ” said I;  and so here is some more from our resident guide to wild mushrooms:


By Bill Bakaitis

The first morels of the season are the hardest to find. They are not Morchella esculenta, the blonde varieties standing tall under elm and apple but the Eastern Black Morel, M. elata/angusticeps/conica complex.

These early morels usually will begin to fruit near the end of April in the Mid Hudson area, just as the forsythia blossoms fall to earth, the maples begin to leaf out and the black flies begin to bite. I found my first of this season on Saturday, April 25, as the spreading heat wave pushed the thermometer to the record breaking 89 degree mark.

The Eastern Black Morel, typically the first morel of the season

The Eastern Black Morel, typically the first morel of the season

Read More…

Spring On Toast – Black Morels, Asparagus and Eggs

Also old-faithful walking onions, always the first to appear, and a handful of garlic chives, currently taking over the side bed that’s due for renewal and therefore has not been weeded at all.


Here in our part of the Hudson Valley, this year spring is on toast in more ways than one. I’m in the office with, I confess, the air conditioner on because none of the shade trees are leafed out yet and it’s 89 **!!@^%! Degrees. Same as yesterday and tomorrow and then on Tuesday it’s supposed to get hot.


The red tulips had one day! Truth. Buds cracked in the evening at bedtime on Friday, full open by noon Saturday, then exhausted by eveniing, just like the rest of us. The pink ones, admittedly, had been open for 2 days but I was rather enjoying them.

So. Looking at the forecast made this morning a nightmarish recap of fall, when you rush around picking all the flowers that will be blasted by frost. Read More…

Another Tool Tale – kitchen division


Daffodils are close to the peak, we’re now enjoying daily  bouquets. Small bouquets, it must be admitted, because I hate to cut any no matter how many there are, but still


it must be time to

Plant the second round of lettuce.

Find the bags of summer clothing. 

Wish Wordsworth had kept his mouth shut, and

issue another Neat Old Tool Alert.

Yard sale season is upon us, and although they’re not common any more, there’s still a chance you’ll run into one of these  pieces of

antique ironing equipment

antique ironing equipment

Though it probably won’t say right on it what it was made for – Read More…

The Italian Rototiller

I have a number of garden tools to which I am mightily attached, but none so precious as the Italian rototiller, my husband Bill, who has written this guest post about his favorite tool.

The Italian Rototiller

By Bill Bakaitis

It may not be what T. S. Elliot meant when he referred to April as being the cruelest month, but around here the breaking of spring ground also means breaking the sweet silence of winter.  Motorcycles roar, dogs bark, the machinery of lawn maintenance springs into gear and out come the rototillers, churning and burning their way into the modern landscape. The ‘greening of exurbia’ is what they say.  Consumer doublespeak is more like it.

 The Grape Hoe, Mattock or Italian Rototiller, all oiled up and ready to go!

The Grape Hoe, Mattock or Italian Rototiller, all oiled up and ready to go!

When I break ground I use Grandfather’s tool. Anglo types who hang out at the Agway probably call it a Mattock, and it is often listed in specialty garden supply outlets as an Italian Grape Hoe. I once heard it referred to disparagingly as an “Italian Rototiller” and in honor of my Calabrese Grandfather, that’s what I call it. Were he alive today he would chuckle and cherish the approbation.  Leslie, of course, says it only works when used by an Italian (meaning me).

Why do I use and love it? Let me count the ways: Read More…

Spectacular Seed

and pollen images like this

"seed of the Paulownia tree"

"seed of the Paulownia tree"

are just a microscopic part of  The Kew Millenium Seed Bank Project, a major player in the worldwide effort to save endangered plant species.

The  picture here was airily downloaded from a slide show of 18 gorgeous images  published by The Guardian; and the news that it was up there came from Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish

Pruning Forsythia, Spirea, Mock Orange, Fragrant Viburnum, Ceanothus…

Or, Pruning spring-blooming shrubs that grow as thickets of svelte trunks and slender stems, because although they  have their differences they all behave pretty much the same way.

Forsythia in thicket mode

Forsythia in thicket mode

Flower buds form during the summer, mostly on one and two year old wood, so the standard advice is “prune right after bloom.”  That way there’s maximum time for next year’s show to get itself together. 

But after years of following that advice I started doing something that’s more fun and just as good or better from the pruning standpoint: making big bouquets. Read More…

Recall of the week

No, don’t worry, I’m not really going to start doing this regularly, but once you plug in to the FDA’s daily recall report, certain wonderful headlines do pop up and this morning there was:

Mrs. Grissom’s Salads Announces Voluntary Product Recall Due To Undeclared Anchovies.

The headline is courtesy Mrs. Grissom’s – the FDA just sends ’em along as written – and if you’re wondering how anchovies could slip into anything undeclared the answer is that various products were seasoned with Worcestershire sauce that did not appear on the labels

and thus might sicken an unsuspecting consumer who is allergic to fish.

This would be funnier if it weren’t for the vast assortment of pesticide residues on produce, in drinking water, in the tiny dust particles carried on the very air we breathe. Hey FDA!  I’m allergic to it! Read More…

A Ray of Sunshine for sure

lilium 'Golden Splendor'

Lilium 'Golden Splendor'

Because the garden is always a relief from the cares of this world.

Because you can’t beat trumpet lilies.

And because neither suspect pistachios nor plagiarized DNA is exactly a visual thrill (whoopie pies are probably a matter of opinion).

Safe Brands of Pistachios

Or more accurately, brands that claim to have no connection with the plant that processed the most recent don’t-eat-it delight, can be found on this list.

Ray of Sunshine?

In the ongoing struggle to prevent biotech companies from patenting genetic material obtained from traditional plants.

Federal Court: You Can’t Patent DNA Obtained From a Known Protein