Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Down in the dirt

Gardening Day! Out on my tiny black firescape went a green plastic pot planted with 2 marigolds and a tomato plant (marigolds being pretty and also good at fending off tomato-loving bugs); a yellow coffee can with chive seeds waiting to sprout, and the miracle Hanukah poinsetta that has lived for a year and a half now, transforming itself from a holiday throwaway to a leggy houseplant. Soon to follow: the three stemmy little sunflower seedlings that are growing taller by the hour on my windowsill, and perhaps some more herbs.

B.'s fire-escape garden is growing like wildfire, too--he threw a bunch of sunflower seeds around last week, only to come outside a few hours later and find most of them split open and devoured by the resident birds and squirrels. So he figured, well, nuts to that and planted a whole slew of other things in the same pots. however, the birds clearly missed a few, because as of 4pm today there were 13 little sproutlets and counting popping up all over the place. Since each of these flowers can grow 10 or 12 feet tall, this is, as Jimmy Stewart would say, an interesting situation.

This was also the first delivery day for the Cobble Hill CSA. What's a CSA, you ask? Well, first off, the acronym stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Think of it as the real Fresh Direct: a co-op farmer's market that comes to you. You pay your money up front, usually a few hundred dollars for the growing season (in this case, June through November) to a specific farmer, who then has cash in hand to buy seeds and equipment for the season. The farmer then delivers boxes of whatever's growing that week to a central drop-off point once a week. What's cool is that you never quite know what you're going to get, which can be great for getting out of that broccoli-and-string-bean rut. You're also supporting small farms and eating locally. And damn that stuff is fresh! Poke around a little on the web or ask at your local farmers' market and you can probably find one in your area.

Today we got deep green delicious full-grown crinkly spinach leaves that had some chew to them, fat purple chive blossoms (good for making pink chive vinegar), feathery bunches of upland cress (like a cross between carrot tops and watercress), a rather stingy little bunch of succulent asparagus, and a bag of whaddya-do-with-these Jerusalem artichokes. I'd like to say I whipped up some fabulous recipe, but really I just did what I do most often when I'm at home alone: threw it all into my big skillet and sauteed it with olive oil and garlic. OK, not everything: first some scallions and a fat link of Aidell's green chile chicken sausage, then the spinach and the (blanched) asparagus, then a little cress and some homemade, very limey pico de gallo on top. Sat outside soaking up the sudden summer heat with a glass of leftover Riesling from the fridge, listening to the music from West Side Story on the radio and eating the sausage chunks with my fingers. Happy summer, everyone.

Purple Chive Blossom Vinegar
Adapted from recipes in Gayla Trail's You Grow Girl and Pam Peirce's Golden Gate Gardening--which is an invaluable resource for anyone trying to grow in the fog and trippy microclimates of the Bay Area

Chive blossoms look like chubby purple puffballs. They're supercute and will pop up all over your chive patch, and they make a great garnish and vinegar. Take a clean pint mason jar and pack about a dozen or so big fat chive blossoms into it. Fill the jar with white-wine vinegar, about 2 cups. If you've bought a pint bottle of vinegar, save the empty bottle to refill later with your finished brew. Screw on the lid, turn it upside down once or twice, then stick it on a sunny windowsill to steep. Let steep for a couple of weeks, shaking jar occasionally, until vinegar is a pretty shade of pink. Strain through cheesecloth and discard blossoms. Decant into a clean bottle and refrigerate.

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