Archive for June, 2010

Eric’s Pet Plants: Dublin Bay Rose (Rosa x ‘Dublin Bay’)

dublin bay rose, aka blaze improved and don Juan

Deep red is a magnet for the eye, says Eric, and the deep red climber called Dublin Bay is also a magnet for the nose. (Those dark edges come with maturity; they're not visible on younger flowers.)

One problem with going on vacation is that you’re not there to photograph your favorite rose when it’s at its peak, but that hasn’t stopped our friend Eric from resuming his series on pet plants with a shout-out to Dublin Bay, a real landscape workhorse: long blooming, trouble free and (unlike most low-maintenance roses) delightfully fragrant.

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FGFP – Describing The Taste(s) of Peas

FGFP stands for Food Gardeners Fine Points and I’m putting pea varieties there because a recent NPR story, Why Supertasters Can’t Get Enough Salt, implied supertasters were the only ones who could taste differences between peas.

Phooey. If you’re any kind of taster at all, you know instantly when snap peas are too young or pod peas are over the hill. And if peas were sold by name, like tomatoes, you’d have little trouble noticing that different varieties have distinct degrees and kinds of sweetness, more and less tenderness, juiciness, grassiness…

And then the words start failing. I can say things like “Early Perfection has a slightly spicy note,”  or “Casselode has old fashioned pea flavor with faint echoes of field peas.” But vegetable-speak has a long way to go before it’s as useful as wine-speak. I’m working on helping the produce catch up, so if you have good ways to describe the many, many tastes of peas, please write and let us know.

varieties of pea vines, side by side

Left to right: Early Perfection, Laxton’s Progress #9, Casselode, Sugar Ann, Gonzo, Sugar Sprint

Can’t expect tasters to know how different the plants themselves look. That’s a treat for gardeners.

Summer Mushroom Season Starting – Chanterelles Coming Soon

Just by chance, our first summer foray was yesterday, when Bill went scouting and I tagged along, even though I was pretty sure we wouldn’t find much. (No rain for a while now and it’s up around 90 every day.)

Bill didn’t expect much either, but he doesn’t need much; one obscure little poisonous tidbit he hasn’t photographed yet is enough to make his day.

We were right, there wasn’t much – if you don’t count the mosquitoes and one huge honking Boletus bicolor.

Boletus bicolor in ferns

Bill with a Boletus bicolor that’s on the big side for a solo specimen

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Companion Planting Update: Peas and Squash

This is how our squash bed/pea patch looked yesterday, 2 weeks after the version that ended  Eric’s post on companion planting.

garden bed with lettuce, peas and squash

asparagus to the rear, mowed central path at the right. Actual distance between: @ 20 feet.

The plan: Early in spring, plant lettuce, fava beans and peas at the path edge of what will become the winter squash bed. By the time it’s warm enough to plant the squash, the peas will be flowering. By the time the squash flows lavalike over the edge of the bed, the early things will be all done.

Big question for today: will they be all done?

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The Best Thing About Food Blogs

Or one of the best things, anyway. They’re not on paper.

Result: not so many dead wild trees; fewer monocrop tree plantations, reduced use of  horrendous paper-processing chemicals. To say nothing of less giant log truck exhaust.

birch tree in lawn

Ok, these are safe. The wood lot on the other side of the road, not so much.

In other words, I’ve been cleaning out a few bookcases, bookcases that haven’t been cleaned out for quite a while. In addition to books, photographs and assorted memorabilia, they contained folders that I’d been thinking were full of old manuscripts but were in fact full of self-published food newsletters.

Tons – well, many pounds – of food newsletters. Newsletters beyond counting, from gifted writers and the prose-challenged, from good cooks and from people who should not be allowed near kitchens except in restaurants.

Old copies of keepers like The Art of Eating, Simple Cooking and Food History News will go to the Cushing library (which may be the very last library on earth willing to accept such things). The rest – into the recycle bin, with gratitude that there is finally something reasonably benign to do with unwanted paper.

Success with The Three Sisters – Companion Planting for Corn, Beans and Squash

pole beans on sapling poles

Pole green beans as only children - read on for why

If you want a stellar example of the First Peoples’ agricultural smarts, it’s hard to beat their companion planting of The Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash.

Corn, being tall and straight, provides support for the beans. Bean vines, being strong and wiry, build a framework around the corn that helps keep it from falling over. The big squash leaves cover the ground, conserving moisture and shading out weeds.

And just to put the fudge on the sundae, the beans, being legumes, provide extra nitrogen for the corn and squash.

Ever tried it?

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Eric’s Pet Plant(s): Vegetables! Fighting Pests with Healthy Plants and Companion Planting

Our friend Eric has again turned from his many plant charges at Yale to take another run at his home vegetable garden. And I do mean run; what follows is a drive-by “do-this” list from someone who knows what he’s talking about…and was, when he sent it, just about to go on a well-deserved vacation.

lettuce interplanted with broccoli

According to Eric, "The broccoli and lettuce are interplanted to maximize space and the broccoli provides just enough shade for the lettuce in the long sometimes hot days in June. Note the (untreated!) rough lumber for the raised bed." Works just as well with the red cabbage in the foreground.

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Rhubarb Custard Pie – A Recipe to be Reckoned With

Though I do say so myself, I make a mean rhubarb pie:  elegantly plain, in the classic flaky crust plus sweetened fruit fashion; lily-painted, as in Deep Dish Rhubarb Peach Pie, and mixed with black cherry jam , as an easy rhubarb crostata that’s not really pie but is really tasty (and very nearly instant).


lattice top rhubarb pie

The pie that makes people say “ I thought I hated rhubarb, but this is wonderful!” is Carol’s Mother’s Deep Dish Rhubarb Custard Pie.

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