Success w. Amaranth!
May 19th, 2010

It’s a little interesting that the first Cooking entry on this blog is about Amaranth, considering that I don’t often cook with this grain. In fact, this is only the second time – the first it was an attempt at making a sweet breakfast-like Amaranth that I just didn’t enjoy, but could eat.

Amaranth doesn’t taste like that much, but it holds flavor pretty well. However, the main reason I’m assuming this grain isn’t widely used is that, despite being incredibly healthy, it has one of the oddest consistencies I’ve ever encountered. Slightly squishy little blobs, more or less congealed together (depending on the method of cooking [or really amount of water from what I can figure out]), that kind of “pop” (or at least ooze) when you bite them. It’s not necessarily bad, although it’s not exactly growing on me just yet.

I made the first dish on the website I linked to, w. a few notes:

  • I jotted my notes down on both sides of a post note to take to the kitchen with me. My notes were very shorthand, and I spent the majority of the time cooking it on the phone w. my Uncle
  • Because of this, I boiled the amaranth in the water, instead of adding afterwards
  • This one will alarm you – I don’t generally cook w. garlic or onions, and when I do, I use drastically less. I often substitute ginger, chopped bell peppers, or just oil and seasoning. This time I used a teaspoon or so of chopped ginger and a shake of garlic powder, along w. the dried basil and oregano. I should have used something a little spicier, some cayenne or ground chili powder, although it didn’t need much spice to taste good. I always use more olive oil then recipes say.
  • I added the mushrooms late, forgetting about them
  • Finally, I used a little veg stock to the tomato mixture because it seemed dry and I was using a frying pan. I think you usually can’t go wrong w. adding a little veg stock, especially if you want to simmer your food
  • It came about pretty good, so I definitely advocate giving this recipe a try. I’m just realizing now that I forgot any pictures, I’ll need to take some and will update this post soon. For now, I need to do a little yoga in my room to help my knee stop bugging me.

Backyard Work Continues!
May 13th, 2010

I never tell you about anything else anymore!

I’ve put tomatoes in the ground:

Planted most of em on May 1st. Here’s one of them not quite two weeks later

The lettuce is going well:

Some beans and squash seeds are sprouting:

Milk thistle is FREAKIN HUGE:

and look how green my oregano is:

Yeah, I dig gardening. I need to come up w. some structures for the tomatoes to grow over. Putting my thinking cap on…

More Gardening!
April 29th, 2010

In the world of growing food, things move relatively slowly, with spurts of advancement. Sometimes those spurts are unnoticeable, however sometimes they are obvious.

Like when I spend 3 hours back there, as I did today. I moved and I shook, I hustled and bustled, and there is some activity going on!

The majority of the work involved utilizing my container beds a bit more. I’ve moved all of my seedlings outdoors by now (save a few slow-growing basil, wormwood, and kale plants). For one reason or another (mostly that I didn’t have enough space in the two beds), I also transplanted a few plants into their own cell-pack:

Seeds are growing...

That's spinach and cilantro in the far bed, mascara lettuce in the closer one, and each cell pack has either basil, kale, or cherry tomatoes.

Behind that is the patch of oregano I transplanted a few weeks ago.

(Note: Before transplanting anything into the ground, I first worked some planting soil from the local nursery into the earth, and then followed up by putting a substantial amount of worm castings both in the holes where I planted, as well as across the top of the soil afterwards.)

I ended up moving out the tomatoes that were in the bed a couple weeks ago into the ground. No pics on that yet, but the plants look like they’re taking root (which is good b/c I think I moved them about a week earlier then I should have). The rain this week has helped I’m sure. When they get some strength to them I’ll update ya!

Also put in the ground were my lettuce seedlings. These seeds were really prolific so I had more sprouted seedlings then I expected. However after a few days later, what was a very crowded garden bed no longer looks so overrun with potential plants. This here is mostly Crisp Mint, although I think a few Yugoslavian Reds survived….

Lettuce in the Garden!

Behind that bed is a lot of junky soil (read, there’s concrete and glass mixed in), that I planted some Morning glory seeds in. I hope to have them climb the fence behind it. First I’ll need to get the seeds to sprout and then guide them up there. Luckily I cut some branches off of a neighboring fig tree which I think I can use. On that, I had to move the plant that came back to life b/c it was in prime tomato space. The far back of this side of my backyard is quite plentiful w. some sort of yellow flower, milk thistle, and now said plant! The fig tree was encroaching on the area where the plant currently is (note to self: figure out what that damn plant is called!).

It’s hard to believe all that milk thistle came out of 3 or 4 seedlings I started from some seeds from the food coop. Better yet, it’s starting to bloom finally so I can harvest the seeds soon! Then I’ll trim the plant back pretty rigorously. In case you’ve never come across milk thistle, it’s sharp and pointy, and grows like crazy.

The next update will be awesome. You’ll want to read it. And maybe I’ll actually write about something other then gardening in the meantime!

Mapping out my Backyard (short post):
April 9th, 2010

Right now I am putting together my plan for the backyard. I’m pretty happy w. what I have so far – the space is not measured out exactly, but I think I spend enough time back there to be pretty close. Here’s where I’m at.

Seeds update, April 1, 2010
April 6th, 2010

(Actually, the majority of this happened last weekend on March 27th, but I am taking longer and longer to make updates to this blog)

Anyway, most of my first starts have germinated and sprouted cotyledons. Cotyledons are actually part of the seed and serve as food sources until true leaves are formed and the plant is capable of photosynthesis – in case you weren’t aware (I think I had been but I forgot). It’s very exciting! The bottom layer is doing better then the top layer, but I guess that’s the nature of the light/heat/etc. Interestingly enough, the wormwood sprouted first but has grown the least since doing so. Here’s a pic at 10 days:

I also started another bed, this time w. 18-cells. I decided to grow lettuce, tomato, and kale. I had three types of lettuce and tomato, so I gave them the majority of the spots, and then the final three for kale. Here’s the organization and freshly planted seeds:
Seeds to Plant! 3/27/10

I decided that the previous roaster tray had proven itself fairly successful, so I purchased another for the window.

BTW, this time around I did a bit more internet-researching and found that I was missing a lot of specific steps – such as using a soil-less mixture, putting the seeds under plastic, factoring in which seeds need more vs. less light to get started, etc. I ended up deciding to just do what I’d already been doing, which I’m sure comes as a surprise if you know me b.c I’m so totally un-stubborn, hah. Anyway, I did come across the About: Gardening page and think it has plenty of helpful hints for the Anthony of the future. But what I’ve really learned is that if you start right, and things seem healthy, you are usually doing just fine.

Some of the lettuce has started to barely sprout already – I always take it personally when one seed starts and another doesn’t, and I think I just need to let it go. The tomato and kale seeds were buried a little deeper – and for good reason. I think I commonly forget that light is really not one of the things that starts seeds – heat and good soil is. But once the cotyledons show up, then it’s time to bring on the sun!

Next up, I need to sit down and map out how I want my backyard to look. I moved a few herbs that I started from cell packs out of the garden spot to make room for actual veggies – and also to slowly turn my backyard into a real growing space. I’d like to be able to do it w. the supplies I already have for the most part – but I also know that I have TONS of concrete and a new plant is just a container and some soil away, so who knows how far I will take things….

Here’s some of those herbs I moved:

Oregano

Mint

Chives

My friend Josh swung by as well and helped me prune my Thunderbird Plum Tree. Yardwork is always SO much more fun w. company!

Josh Trimming the Thunderbird

Here’s what it looked like when he was done:

Finally, check out the two largest (of 5) parsley plants (almost as big as the fennel they replaced):

So lemme know if you want fresh parsley!

I’m realizing that I seem to be posting a lot about gardening and website stuff for a place that is supposed to be a celebration of Severe Bass, so I’m working on that, I promise. Just let me get a handle on my interface (that’s what she said)! 🙂

Hey, do you follow me on twitter? I can’t think of a good reason to, other then I spell weird and am occasionally entertaining. Do you expect much more from twitter?

Vernal Equinox seed starts
March 21st, 2010

I knew that the Vernal Equinox was this Saturday, but because of other events in my personal life that particular specification ending up taking a back seat to some other details. However, I did know that today should be the day I start doing some gardening. Either way, I feel I celebrated appropriately.

I’ve only tried growing directly from seeds sown indoors once and it didn’t go so well. However, I have had some decent luck as a gardener in the past w. seed cells, and I’ve been encouraged by some of the lettuce and flower growth I’ve cultivated from very haphazard means of outdoor sowing. So I am encouraged w. the possibilities, and this time started with reviewing the instructions of each seed type to figure out what I should start with (and then translated the relevant information to a spreadsheet). As of the afternoon of the 20th, I was limited to 12 cells to plant in (I only had a single dozen-egg carton to get things started with). The roomies have a couple 18-egg cartons that I’ll be utilizing shortly, this attempt is really just about trying things out.

In the end, I chose mostly leafy greens, with one plant that is supposed to ward off insects (wormwood). This ended up meaning 2 cells for the Genovese Basil, 2 cells for the Thai Basil, 3 for the cilantro (i can probably harvest that year round and it’s in EVERYTHING), 3 for the Bloomsdale Spinach (another I can probably keep going all year and it should be planted early in regular climates), and then two for the wormwood. I really did get the wormwood b/c it sounded exotic and said it was proven to keep insects away as well as help w. stomach problems – not that absinthe isn’t interesting…. The wormwood seeds were especially small, which will make it all the more fascinating to watch what they might turn into.

In addition to some other weeding in the backyard, this was eventually set up in my egg carton and is stationed in the kitchen. In the past I’ve put the cartons on a plate, but this time I decided to finagle a bendable aluminum folding pan to fit the egg carton. In the long run I’m hoping it was a smart move; I’m guessing the reflective nature of the aluminum will both direct a little more sun on the plants, as well as retain the heat. We shall see…

Yep, I look forward to the sprouting of my babies. I did not germinate any of these seeds in water, partially b.c of time, but also because only one of the packets recommended it and it wasn’t any of the ones I was starting. The good news is that I got this all from Seed Savers Exchange so my seeds were super cheap. I used at most 20 % of the seeds provided (doubling or tripling up in the carton for maximum efficiency), but most of the herbs I planted came at 100 seeds for 3 dollars. Considering the local hardware store sells 20 for 2 bucks, this is a VERY sustainable situation if I can make it work. Honestly, I could probably grow about 5% of the seeds I’ve bought and justify my purchase monetarily. And in the end, this is going to be a learning experience and I really look forward to becoming more proficient in gardening.

Next stop – landscaping! Here’s the most recent picture of my full backyard (from November of last year, after the landlord de-weeded it – it’s way more green now because weeds are CRAZY out here). The Garden is behind the structure in the second level (which we call “The Clubhouse”), and those pics are at the bottom.

My Backyard in November!

November 2009

The “Big” Garden (currently herbs, kale, parsley, lettuce, oregano, and calendula) In the foreground is some of my supplies, most notably the soils I purchased. I’m going to start things w. the “Black Gold”, as it has natural fertilizer in it, and then mix in a little of the other potting soil as needed.

Here’s the other part of the garden – the back part will probably have some sort of climbing flower in the back, and maybe something else in the front. This is mostly on top of concrete, so I won’t be able to grow veggies in this spot until I clean it out and set it up correctly (there’s currently chunks upon chunks of concrete in the back area). I have some red russian kale, parsley, lettuce, as well as some weeds growing nicely in the two holes that already existed for now though.

My seeds came today!
March 14th, 2010

Seeds!

Seeds!

A few weeks ago, when getting excited about the upcoming summer, I joined a non-profit called Seed Savers Exchange, which is a “non-profit organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.” A cause I’m on board with!

It didn’t take me long to wrack up about $50 worth of seeds (the cheapest seed packet is $2.75, which contains anywhere from 25 – 100 seeds, depending on the plant). According to my SF Water Works calendar, I should be starting some plants from seed by now (Actually, should have got on it a while ago so hopefully will start it up this week/weekend). In fact, I’ve already seen some seedlings for sale at the Farmers Market. But, the point of this is I am totally pumped about growing a bunch of my own food!. Here’s what I got:

  1. Mexico Midget, Organic Tomato
  2. Empress Beans
  3. Wormwood (it’s proven to keep bugs away!)
  4. Black Beauty, Organic Zucchini Squash
  5. Genovese, Organic Basil
  6. Organic Cilantro
  7. Giant Italian, Organic Parsley
  8. Crisp Mint, Organic Letuce
  9. Mascara, Lettuce
  10. Hungarian Heart, Tomato
  11. Bull’s Blood, Beet
  12. Red Russian, Organic Kale
  13. Yugoslavian Red, Organic Lettuce
  14. Bloomsdale, Organic Spinach
  15. Gold Medal, Tomato
  16. Thai Basil

The Lavender (requested by a roommate) and Butternut Squash were on back order. So hopefully this week I can get at least some of them set up in some egg cartons so they can germinate. I have a vague idea how I want the backyard to be laid out…more on that later

  • Tha OBAR!




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