Summer of ’18 First Harvest

Been a fairly good year in the gardens. I tried a lot of new varieties this year and was amazed with their success, in spite of the sporadic drought and deluge. I want to talk about some plants that I’ve already eaten.

Garlic A perennial favorite. This year marked the 15th year I’ve been cultivating my bulbs by natural selection. I’ve been reserving the largest cloved bulbs for planting each year and have developed a crop is red striped and  each has 4-6 large cloves. So beautiful to admire, so few to peel, so delicious to eat…..


Padrón peppers  – These small peppers from Galicia, Spain are like cracker jacks. 10 to 25% of them are hot, so you don’t know what the prize will be. Sweet and tasty or hot and sizzle. I’ve never had one I couldn’t handle but for some it might be too much. Just keep a baguette nearby.

Simply fry them in hot olive oil until they  turn dark. Thinned skin they are, so you can just grab them by the tail and eat. My Galician friends went wild over them.

Mizuna (ミズナ(水菜)Fun to read about,  beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.  Also called Japanese mustard green but the name doesn’t describe the taste. The characters are more so. Very easy to cultivate, grows fast and furious so you can start dining immediately. One plant would have been more than enough. Add it to salads or a salad on it’s own with simple dressing of rice vinegar, a tad of sweetener of choice ( Mirin is best ), roasted sesame oil and soy sauce.  I’m going to have some now.

Beets Tried a few new varieties and was very pleased. I really can’t grow enough to keep my son and I in beets; fortunately there is an abundance at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market.  Boiling or steaming seems too brutish so I rub them down with olive oil and roast at 375 till al dente.

Slice and serve with goat cheese and a honey dijon dressing on a bed of Mizuna.

Yellow San Marzanos – Didn’t yield as expected but very colorful and tasty. They don’t resemble San Marzanos so don’t expect a large, dense fruit.  Perhaps they didn’t get along with other family members planted close by.

Yukon Gold Potatoes  The sandy soil at the Rice Street Community Gardens is perfect for spuds. Very easy to grow. I grab a bag of organic from the coop making sure there is lots of ‘eyes’.  Let them get a start in the bright light, then cut, separating the eyes. Plant to depth of 4-6 inches. So fun to dig up and be surprised what happens in the darkness. A freshly dug potato is a wonder !


Soon I’ll have more as the winter squash start to roll in. Also I will be talking about pollinators and the role they play. Hope you enjoyed this bit of garden adventure in the Urban Landscape.

Anything we can grow organically, keeps us off the pesticide/herbicide/chemical fertilizer grid.

White Pine and Blacktop

This morning the stillnes of the neighborhood was violated by the rumble of large trucks and chain saws. It was as if someone had thrown a brick through a plate glass window.

The crew scaled the majestic White Pine and dangling on the ropes like an aerial circus act began whittling away at the branches. Chips and sawdust drifted like snowflakes as a light breeze stirred the  sweet resinous air.

In the neighboring trees, the birds, that I expect had made the pine their home , were wildly dancing and singing a  song of distress. It was an unusually loud and high-pitched scold I wished I’d recorded.

The tree was estimated to be between 100 and 150 years old, was nearly 3 feet in diameter and reached almost 200 feet into the sky. The branches extended 20 feet or more from the trunk.  One of the woodmen said it was virgin growth which meant it was here long before the urban life was laid down.

As the last large section of trunk shuddered the truck bed, I felt sad that such magnificence would not be seen again on those mornings after a fresh snowfall. The whispering of the the needles in the wind falls silent. It was feared that such a giant, could, in a storm, wipe out  3 or 4 homes, theoretically I suppose. Fear of the giant was its demise.

My violin is made from Maple, Spruce, and Ebony trees. Trees are invaluable to me. I’ve started composing a piece about the White Pine as token of tribute.


Crop Report 2017

A productive growing season is coming to an end, snow is predicted in a few days, but no time for rest as I evaluate what worked and what didn’t do so well. I’ve always been a compact gardener due to limited space and sunlight. This year I obtained another plot in our local community garden which allowed me to stretch my imagination and experiment. Acorn squash, leeks, and potatoes were the major successes. I’d never planted potatoes, the ease of growing and deliciousness ensures their survival in my plot next year. Potato-Leek soup won the prize. The garlic which I’ve grown for over 15 years are solid producers. Planting of cloves is a little later now due to climatic changes which I’ll expound on soon.

The weather was a great partner this year, so much so that I got to travel to Europe for a couple weeks, Amsterdam and Prague. The growers in the Netherlands are producing magnificent vegetables in their high tech hot houses. National Geographic recently profiled this work of art.

With the hot July sun, San Marzano tomatoes were once again the stars of the fruiting section, followed by the serranos,  jalapenos and gypsy peppers.

The soil in the new plot got quite hard between rainfalls, will need some more compost for sure, my legacy plots have been mulched and composted every year and difference in soil texture is astounding.

Next year I will attempt to grow more native crops. Many of my garden companions are from Southeast Asia and have introduced plants I’m not used to seeing.  Red Amaranth for one is stunning to watch. I believe the leaves are used in soups and stir fries. I haven’t had any reports of seed use. I may try some of that next year.

So aside from a few persistent serrano plants and late-surging chards things are winding down, save for some soil conditioning and future fantasies.

I’m available for consulting year ’round on any and all topics – just saying…….