Monday, June 27, 2011

Capture the Morning's Garden

June is the month! That is when it happens.

The soil has been satiated by the continual spring rains and with increasing sunshine and warmer daytime temperature here in the Pacific Northwest, color and blossoms and fragrance emerge nearly en masse. We love the chill of the morning air, the warmth of a sunny day and the cool breeze beneath a shade tree.

Blossoms of the rhododendron have begun to fade but the Chionanthus virginicus (Fringe tree), is currently Puttin' on the Ritz. This rather slow growing specimen is worth having in the garden especially for the intoxicatingly fragrant and delicate creamy-white panicles of blossoms.

Step out the front door toward the rhododendron, turn south past the tree and the kitchen garden (potager), take a hop past the apple trees to the opposite side and turn northward, and this handsome Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Pinus glauca) awaits to greet with a view of the Fringe tree above, and the profuse yellow flowers of Genista Lydia (Lydia broom) which drape over the wall of boulders, the support for the raised bed area and a few roses.

Stroll past a healthy stand of black bamboo (Phyllostachy nigra) where thoughts turn to friends who gave us a little start of that fine specimen... but be careful, for the grade is rather steep.

Beyond we approach a most spectacular Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii', perhaps my favorite shrub. See how the branches grow horizontally and the double rows of lacey cymes lay atop the branches and look somewhat akin to a lace-cap hydrangea? We started this from a cutting 7 or 8 years ago from one in another section of the garden and planted it in this location in order to have a birds eye view of the blossoms from above. It loves this spot, as do we. Would you believe, we do not water it?

Continue north from here past the birch and we'll head west up the hill toward another favorite part of the garden.

A favorite tree, Fagus sylvatica (beech), was planted following a trip to England nine years ago. No, we shall not experience the grandeur as those that we saw, for they were at least a century old, but the magnificence of those trees had us planting one upon our return to the United States. It could be said that the deep rich burgundy color of the foliage is likened to a great Merlot, deep, full of flavor and rich in color. (I made that last part up... wink.) I do love how it caresses Carex elata 'Bowles Golden'.

The soft salmon pink of Papaver orientale 'Helen Elizabeth' is throughout the garden, and one nestles next to this carex.

Only a few bearded iris remain and Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravens Wing' has now faded, but all is not lost as blossoms of another form emerge.

Yes, this is the month, or shortly I will say, was the month, for our garden will have to contend with the hot and dry days during July and August. Amazing is how the plants have adapted to little or no water during that period over the course of many years.

Thank you for taking time to join us in the morning garden.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Asian Shrimp, Mango and Avocado Slaw

What does one do with beautiful heads of cabbage recently harvested from the hoop house?

First, Cabbage Soup, and yesterday, Asian Shrimp, Mango and Avocado Slaw, courtesy of Cathy at Wives with Knives.

Cathy states that one of the nice things about this recipe is that there are no set rules. Add a little more of one thing, less of another. Barbecued pork can be substituted for the shrimp, use cashews instead of peanuts, add pineapple instead of mango. There were only a few changes I made, but mostly followed her recipe.

And it is delicious! ... crisp, some sweetness, a little kick, and full of wonderful flavors and healthy ingredients.

Asian Shrimp, Mango and Avocado Slaw
adapted from Cathy at Wives with Knives

6 cups shredded cabbage (about a 2.2 lb fresh cabbage head)
1 carrot, julienned
3 fresh radishes, thinly sliced
2 young green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 - 1 cup fresh young Kale leaves, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 pound shrimp, cooked (I grilled them lightly)
1 mango, peeled and diced
2 avocados, peeled and diced

Note: I combined all the above ingredients (except for the avocados) and refrigerated for several hours; prior to serving, the avocados and the dressing were added. The cooked shrimp were grilled slightly; fresh young Kale from the garden was added, and since I did not have chili garlic sauce, I used that which I had on hand, the chili paste.

Asian Vinaigrette Dressing

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
juice of l lime
2 tablespoons honey (raw and unfiltered local honey)
1 teaspoon sesame oil (or to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh Asian chili paste (or chili garlic sauce)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup oil

Combine all ingredients except oil. Slowly whisk in oil.

This is one we will make again. Thanks, Cathy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cabbage Soup

Harvested from the hoop house this past week were Carrot Nantes, Cauliflower Graffiti and several more heads of cabbage, Stonehead and an early Golden Acre, plus some Kale which is now in the outside raised beds. And since we have frozen tomatoes from last year's garden, what should a person do? The garden gives you cabbage... make cabbage soup.

Cabbage Soup from Diana's kitchen

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb ground hot (or sweet) Italian sausage
1 medium to large onion (about 2 cups), chopped or sliced
3-4 stalks of celery (about 2 cups) chopped
1 head of fennel (about 2 cups), sliced (optional)
3 cloves garlic, diced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 carrots, sliced/diced
3 cups diced tomatoes (frozen tomatoes from the garden)
2 large heads of cabbage (5-6 pounds), coarsely chopped
2 (32 oz) containers of chicken broth
Kale, chopped

Heat olive oil in an extra large Dutch oven or stock pot. Add ground hot sausage and cook until slightly browned. Add chopped onion, celery, (fennel), garlic, touch of salt and pepper and saute over low heat for 5-7 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, heat through and simmer for 45 minutes. Add more broth and salt and pepper if needed. If you like more broth, add additional liquid, but we like it without too much. A few minutes before it is done, add kale and heat through. Simple, quick and oh so yummy.

Note: This makes a large quantity of soup, but it makes sense to do so since we enjoy having several meals of it and then freezing the remainder in quart containers for later use. Fennel was omitted this time since it was not available in the garden. And remember that cabbage cooks down so the raw quantity will be greatly reduced when cooked, one-third to one-half. Additionally, since we had local fresh ground pork, it was used in lieu of the hot Italian sausage. Since we like the spicy flavor, I added 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, and 1/2 - 1 teaspoon fennel seed to the browned pork.

... and now I see some Cole slaw in our future.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Yesterday's Foggy Morning

The month of May brought us continued rain and coolness with temperatures ranging mainly in the mid-fifties to the low 60's. Yesterday we awoke to a 42° (F) foggy morning and an optimistic high forecast of 71. (Be sure to enlarge for I do love the fog in the landscape.)

Had you been here you could have lent a hand: rigging a device of PVC to roll up the opposite sides of the hoop house in order for the heat to escape during high daytime temperatures; pulling more weeds; harvesting two more heads of Cabbage 'Stonehead' and one beautiful Cauliflower 'Graffiti' from the hoop house; planting some cannas; transplanting more of the tomatoes from containers to the outside garden... oh yes, and some beans. In fact you could have been entertained by witnessing two people who overdid it and nearly had to drag themselves inside.

Today, a high of 83, and no, you will not find us working in that. However, with this cool 52 degree morning, a few hours outside seems to be in order.

"Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education", Mark Twain said.