Tagged: spring

Flowers in the garden

Indian Summer has just about made it here and while the rest of the country is preparing for fall, San Francisco is gathering her shorts and tanktops and hoping she won’t see Karl The Fog for longer bouts. The skies are azure and the ocean is a shimmering turquoise with enough golden sunshine pouring over the hills in a manner so abundant, the Mediterranean would be envious.

Our garden flourished through summer and is continuing to thrive. What with all this new-found sunshine, we’ll have basil well into October. There has been heaps of wonderful things coming out of the garden. How much we manage to grow out of just some pots is still cause for general amazement.

This year is one I’m unofficially going to call the year of flowers. The garden has been covered in them; vines and shrubs heaped with beautiful blooms. From early spring and continuing through now, the riot of colour has been phenomenal.

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Creamless ‘Cream’ of Avocado Soup

He came home to a dark flat. He paused at the threshold for a moment, straining to hear sounds of the television, of her laughter at said television, of any signs of life. He could hear the electronic wheeze of the 31-Muni opening its doors at the corner of the street. He could hear the washing machine running in the upstairs apartment. The street lamp cast long shadows through the open windows, silent and animated. There was, however, no other noise inside.

He stepped in, letting the door close behind him as he reached for his phone. He punched play on the voice-mail wondering if he had gotten her message wrong, but there was her voice telling him she’d be going home early. The past two weeks had been filled with busy days and exhausted nights for the both of them. All they had been able to do as they crawled home was stop at the small cafe on the way home. It was open late and made Vietnamese sandwiches, which they would gratefully devour standing in the kitchen at home with paper towels held under to sop up any spills. They were entirely too tired to have dishes to clean. There in that kitchen, the aroma of the smoky vegetables would help blot out some of the tiring day while the layers of avocado provided much needed comfort. At any rate, he was glad that those weeks were now behind them. Any sandwich, no matter how delicious, was tiresome after a third straight night. He preferred home-cooked food anyway, eating out only under duress or because she loved to try new places. He had been looking forward in anticipation to dinner all afternoon.

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So you think you can’t plant

(Note: If you’d like to know what plants are included in each photo, please hover your cursor over them.)

Our gardening endeavors started with 6″ high pots on a 5″ window ledge, in a 6′-0″ X 5′-0″ kitchen. That kitchen was also where this blog was born. Friends wondered loud and long how we cooked in that little space, let alone blogged about the food. It was our very first kitchen together; cramped and quirky though it was, we loved it. Any cooking and blogging in there came with the prerequisite of some planning and involved some bickering. Okay, a lot of bickering, and also very many ‘I’m sorry I was mean’ brownies. All in all, nightly dinner took more work than the plants did in a month. They were content in their little heaps of soil with just a little sun and water. We looked at that ledge over the sink and marveled at how the herbs grew, seemingly with little help from us. Sometimes, if we were feeling apocalyptic, we considered the mess they would make if the earth decided to shake things up as it so often does in these parts. That thought did give us pause, but we got past that. What is the nebulous possibility of pottery and soil in your garbage disposal compared to the promise of chillies on your window-sill right now? Plus in the event of the apocalypse, the mess of a potted plant would not qualify as a mess at all.
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How does your garden grow? |The Urban Garden Journal

It all began with a few hot little chilli seeds gone to pot two years ago. In that cute green glazed terracotta pot on the shallow ledge of a window sill.

We fell so in love with that pot that we invited two more over so it wouldn’t be lonely.  We planted a little rosemary plant in one and sage in another so that, you know,  they’d feel like they were there for more important reasons. All three of them perched precariously on the window sill of our struggling-to-be-30 sq.ft  kitchen. An earthquake of three-point-niner along the right fault might have sent them tumbling into the sink but fortunately that didn’t come. We loved to watch the shy little chilli raise its leaves to the sun or the rosemary swish in an errant breeze through an open window. its scent pervading through the dish-rack. Amey surreptitiously poured tea water into the plants while I wasn’t looking. (I hate the idea of tea staining my lovely cream-coloured window ledge. Little did I know that stains of all sorts are part of plants-perched-on-your-sill territory.) The plants thrived modestly in the greenhouse type situation that the glass window and sink helped create.

Then a year ago, we moved. We were presented with an unkempt backyard, overgrown with a rambling border of brambles. Awful for plant beds, but just begging for container gardening. Striving for self-control we both lacked, we told ourselves we wouldn’t try anything too ambitious. Just some basil and oregano to go along with the sage, chilli and thyme and a couple of flowering perennials for colour along with a gorgeous fuchsia. Tough, hardy plants that I figured would survive my clumsy attempts at killing them. True enough, all we had to give them was some well-drained soil and water and they were quite happy.

Until the first winter arrived. Based on some loose internet research, we figured all the plants would survive our relatively mild – no frost or snow – NorCal winter. The rain, we assured ourselves, would be a good thing. Turns out there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

The rosemary soldiered on and the sage acknowledged the winter by shedding a few leaves. The fuchsia shed all flowers and became a shade of its former self. The chilli plant with which it all began, however, withered away to a dull, green stem. We fervently hoped it would revive in spring but turns out that it didn’t. By early May this year, we had to agree that it was now just a stick in a pot. By all rights, it had determinedly struggled to have a life in some remarkably adverse conditions. (On an unrelated note, so has this blog, but fortunately its survival is more in my control. I’m doubly determined to hang on to it.)

Fortunately, we’d saved some seeds off its last harvest so we planted those. Come spring, the modest rosemary and sage took off like rockets. Our inner ambitious gardeners had completely taken over by now and manifested in a wondering of what else we could plant. Fortunately, the friendly and knowledgeable plant selling folk at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market had plenty of helpful ideas for novice gardeners. I’m now the proud keeper of a burgeoning garden, which I’m dying to talk about; which is why this is the start of a small series of posts devoted to my garden.

As of early April this year, here’s what was happening in the urban garden
(hover over any of the images below to learn know about the subject)

Rest in peace
Indian Chilli (aka The Cheeky Chilli plant) *sob*

Thriving original residents:
Lemon Thyme

Happy new residents:
St. Pierre tomato
Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato
Cayenne Pepper
Red Bell Pepper (Capsicum)
Habenero pepper
English Thyme
Lemon Verbena
Dill Mint
Tea roses


In the garden but still to join the party:


Stay tuned for further updates from the Urban Garden!



Annie Somerville’s Spring Vegetable Salad with Meyer Lemon vinaigrette

“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist – the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know how much oil one must mix with one’s vinegar.”
– Oscar Wilde

Beets were used in the previous citrus and beet salad

What truly makes a good salad anyway? How do you tell if you are in the presence of a good one? More importantly how do you make one that is excellent?

In my opinion, what differentiates a good salad from a passable one is a couple of things; the harmony of tastes and textures you fold together under an unctuous drizzled coating of flavourful liquid and the ratio of the liquid to solid ingredients. These two are key. Get it right and the salad could be sweet, sour, bitter, spicy or any combination thereof and it will still work.

There is then, a secondary tier of things to remember. It is important that you source your greens well. There is a case to be made for pillow packs of greens; if you’re in a hurry, have no access to anything else and more importantly, intend to use the packet within a day or so of buying it, by all means, go ahead and use one. However, if this is what you use all the time, then you’re missing out on one of life’s simple pleasures; the first, cool, crisp bite of leaves that are new to your taste buds. Those convenient vacuum sealed packs only have a set variety of leaves and I don’t know about you, but to me a mixture of three different kinds of lettuce is not much different from just one kind of lettuce. I like a good Caesar salad as much as the next person (well, may be not as much. The next person here and now is my husband. His insane devotion to Caesar salad confounds me) but there is so much more joy to be had in the peppery bite of arugula or the spicy snap of cress or the salty tang of an unusual leaf. Such greens I would never have discovered in pillow packs.

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