Although the travels of the last months have been truly wonderful, there is nothing quite like coming home. My garden survived the neglect and the tomato plants are now at shoulder height with green pearls of delight starting to form. And while I have been a bit lax in keeping up with reading and writing, I have saved a few articles over the last months that I look forward to sharing.
I was surprised and delighted to find Preserving Time in a Bottle in the New York Times and see it truly as a sign of changing times. I am looking forward to savoring my time at home, eating in my own kitchen, keeping my suitcase packed away, devouring fresh tomatoes with Maggie, trying out new recipes, “putting up” our garden and letting the summer arrive slowly, slowly…
Photo: Evan Sung for The New York Times
My little strawberry patch is working miracles this year. It is wonderful for us to be able to go out the back door and pick breakfast. Maggie has appointed herself the official color inspector and tells me which ones are red enough to pick and which ones have to wait until tomorrow. I follow her lead religiously.
For a special treat this weekend, we are making our own version of Strawberry Shortcake with the recipe for my Aunt Mae’s Pound Cake that was originally posted about Georgia Gilmore. There is a reason that they call it Pound Cake.
Here it is again and perfect for fresh strawberries:
It has just been so COLD outside. All the southerners are complaining so I can’t imagine what it is like to be up north at the moment. It seems that the weather has made the transition from the holidays back to work especially difficult this year (almost impossible) and the grey landscape could definitely use a bit of color right now. Does everyone feel that way?
My seeds came in this week: Seed Savers Exchange
I love the names: Dwarf Gray Sugar and Blue Podded Shelling Peas, Lacinato Kale. Chives, Lettuce Leaf Basil, Florence Fennel, Calabrese Broccoli, Summer Crookneck Squash, Pingtung Long Eggplant, Spinach and Smoke Signals Corn.
And, I received my worms: Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm
This weekend I am going to clean up my beds around the house, plant Snow Peas, and prepare the compost pile that is going to be my summer garden. Posted at 6:01 am
Okay. If you live in the South (and perhaps everywhere else for that matter), summertime is filled with anonymous gifts left on your porch.
Martha Foose writes, “When it is not possible to eat all the squash that comes out of the backyard garden quickly enough, the Kornegays have admitted to leaving anonymous gifts on neighbors’ doorsteps under the cover of darkness. They, too, have been on the receiving end of this generous gesture.”
Well, let me attest to the fact that this has been “one particularly prolific summer” for crooknecked squash.
When I lived in Vienna, I visited a restaurant called “Panigl” just about every (other) night of the week. (Is my name still scrawled under the table at my seat?) Well, I used to love an antipasti dish of slow-roasted vegetables that seemed to melt in your mouth. My dear friend, Agatha Whitechapel, once told me how to make the dish and I have approximated her instructions here:
Bless Blair for sending this email just when I thought that there would be no reprieve in my week. We have a potted gardenia in our front garden bed and I have been struggling for one year to decide on its permanent spot. Blair’s post has inspired me to plant it right down by the road that everyone who passes our house on a June morning can revel in its glory.
Hooray for Gardening week! As I was answering my morning email, I heard a mother stroll her jabbering baby down the street. The woman said, “Smell those gardenias! They’re amazing!” So, I had to write this little something for the lady who planted them:
Mrs. Knight, the original owner of our 1940’s home, was known for her bread baking, bridge parties, chain smoking, and Gardenias. What remains of her, along the south side of the house, are her fragrant bushes. The sweet, thick aroma of the twirled-open buds is so dense that every walker, stroller, or jogger who crosses our block is bound to comment on the sugary breeze.
I especially love to watch the gardenias though our evening window. At night, in the dim streetlight’s cast beams, the blossoms look like paper stars clustered across the windowpanes.
I take no credit for these Gardenias. I do give them a little food, and after each bloom, I do cut them back so they won’t grow taller than the house. These flowers belong to Mrs. Knight, and every June, I clutch my breath until they gloriously return.
Illustration of gardenia thunbergia via Wikipedia by Edith Struben (1868-1936)
It has been a really busy week. I had intended to post every day about the wonder and beauty of our simple garden. Now it is Thursday and here you have the second post of the week. Perhaps there will be time to elaborate as the weekend approaches.
This is the first year that I really concentrated on companion planting. What seems a complicated subject matter to me is demystified by Louise Riotte in her two books:
Roses Love Garlic & Carrots Love Tomatoes
I love how my blooming garlic mingles with an old rose bush that was a part of my house the day I moved in. Maggie and I have enjoyed watching the garlic blooms pop their little ‘hats’ as the blossoms open from their little paper shell.
I have to admit that I have not been able to wait until the fall harvest and have been sampling our garlic since the stems emerged last autumn.
I recently came across an article with recipes for young garlic in a magazine which I simply cannot recall this morning. However, a simple Google search provides scores of young garlic recipes from Shrimp Stir Fry to soup.
And be sure to watch Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers by Les Blank.
I am inspired by my garden. These small beds that run around and behind my little house will feed my family this summer.
Thanks to our compost, we are pleasantly surprised by all of the volunteer tomato plants that have sprung up in every spot that we spread this luscious soil.
Maggie and I watch as flowers mingle with the rogue tomatoes, sunflowers and cantaloupes willy-nilly.
Our backyard composter and worm bin, the Biostack:
This post from Blair Hobbs reminds me of why I love gardening. Just this week, Blair agreed to become one of our regular contributors to share her views on being mother, creator, business person, lover of food, gardener and woman of the new south.
I know it’s spring when Mrs. Gary’s field is a snowdrift of little white flowers. Up close, these weeds are star-shaped, and they blanket the lazy lawns of our neighborhood in Oxford, Mississippi. But there are lawns on South 11th Street where these weeds don’t wake. There are yards that are not lazy and are tended by hoards of gardeners from places like Azalea Happenin’s nursery. These gardeners show up after the first frost and get busy on whatever is trying to sprout. These gardeners-for-hire crank up with their loud mowers, weed whackers, and ghost-buster leaf blowers. They prune the Crape Myrtles and Knock-out roses; they blow brown-and-fallen holly leaves from beneath the trimmed boxwood. They also show up with birth control for the Zoysia, and the growing grass remains pure and green and perfect.
Come spring, what grows in my family’s yard does not grow in those more manicured lawns of our neighborhood, and this makes me sad. I like weeds. I like the craggy dandelion leaves, the fragrant stronghold of honeysuckle, the pom-pom clover, and this little yellow flower that now feathers throughout our rain-sodden grass. I don’t know the name of this weed, but the blossoms are precious. They remind me of the small woolly balls that peel up from my favorite cardigan’s sleeves after a long winter’s wear.
Here is Blair’s Bio:
I was born in Oxford, MS in 1964 and moved to Auburn, Alabama when I was three. My dad was dean of Arts and Sciences at the University and my mother was an art professor. I am married to John T Edge, and we have a fabulous seven-year old son, Jess. I teach writing at the University of Mississippi (have an MA in Creative Writing from Hollins College and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan). I am a collage artist and painter, and I always weave words into the content of my canvases. At home, I enjoy cooking, eating, patting the cats, reading, writing, laughing, tending the window boxes, and watching some trashy television.