Archive for the 'Gardening' Category

Broiled Cheesy Tomatoes

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006
Cooked Cheesy Tomato

It is tomato season here and I’m starting to reap the rewards of a couple of wonderful heirloom tomato plants. Likewise, our local farmer’s market has a cheese vendor [again — she went missing for a while] who sells the tastiest cheddars and parmesan-esque cheeses.

Here is a delicious dish made from the two:

Cheesy Tomato Ready To Broil
  • Thin slice one large, very ripe, heirloom or heirloom style tomato
  • Lay the slices out, evenly spaced and not touching, on a cookie sheet (Lacking a silpat, oil the pan first).
  • Lightly salt and pepper the tomato
  • Grate or thinly slice some kind of parmesan or parmesan-like cheese over the top of the tomato slices. I used an artisan cannonball cheese from the local farmer’s market. Something relatively dry and crumbly, but not totally dry.
  • Put the oven on hi broil and place the cookie sheet on the highest shelf
  • Cook long enough for the cheese to melt and then brown just slightly.
  • The end result is an explosion of hot juicy tomato with a crunchy cheese shell. Easy and awesome. I would have taken a picture of the result, but it didn’t last long enough to do so! Got pictures of before and after this time.

    Update: OK — grated the cheese this time. Much better. And I thought I used more. However, the grated cheese has a lot of volume for very little content. Next time, I’ll about double the amount of cheese used.

    And there will be a next time. These were delicious. Even better than last time. And, yes, those are huge slices of tomato.

Fly Eye

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006
Fly on Artichoke Cropped
Juvenile Gallardia Flower
Artichoke Flower

This morning, the garden was particularly beautiful.

Fortunately, I had my camera in hand.

These were shot with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens. It is an awesome piece of glass. Serves very well as a macro lens, for taking portraits, and as a general purpose fixed length lens.

Deformities are Cool

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006
Agapanthus Bud Growing in a CircleAgapanthus Curly Cue

Well, when the deformity is on a plant. For some reason, the various gigantic Agapanthus we have growing down one side of the house have deformed buds. Instead of growing straight up — nearly six feet straight up — the buds are growing in zig-zags and, in a couple of cases, have curled around a full 360 degrees.

No idea why. Regardless, the plants will successfully bloom and go to seed.

The full sized images are pretty cool. The one on the right has almost all of an orb style spider web in it.

Community Garden

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006
Roger Looking for Bugs in Garden

Our garden plot in the community garden is doing quite well. The pepper plants are taking hold, we have lots of nasturtiums and california poppies, the beans have started to climb, and the tomato plants look like they are about to explode.

I took a bunch of shots of flowers in the community garden.

The entire series is available on Flickr.

Roger loves to spend time in the garden. He destroys snails, slugs, and bad bugs while capturing lady bug larva and other good bugs from “no man’s land” and moving them to our plot. In the picture at left, he is looking for bugs on our neighbor’s ditch lilies.

Poppy Head

Unfortunately, this will be the last season that the community garden in my neighborhood exists. Through a series of very shady events, the school system has closed down a couple of schools and decided to move 500 students into an already overflowing school next to the garden. They are going to reclaim the space for temporary buildings.

We are considering legal action because of how the whole thing has been executed. So far, I haven’t talked to anyone that thinks that the school’s move is good for the students or faculty and, worse, there is significant evidence that there are certain members of the school board that have acted in a highly questionable fashion.

As it stands, the students will lose as they are packed even more tightly into the facilities. The teachers and staff lose as they are shuffled into positions with less resources. The community loses both the community garden and by increasing traffic and noise.

So far, I have yet to talk to anyone who thinks the school’s move is either a good idea or an effective way to cut costs.

Iris Tour

Monday, May 8th, 2006
Iris Study  023

It is definitely Iris season. I took a walk in the neighborhood with camera in hand and the intent to take a few shots of every different kind of Iris I could find. The blooms are just stunning this year. I created a flickr set and, of course, the implied Flickr slide show.

2006 Garden

Thursday, April 6th, 2006
Seedlings 1

Roger, Christine and I have been hard at work planting our 2006 garden. We have the community garden plot all prepped and weeded, with carrots, strawberries, gladiolas, and wildflowers already in the ground.

In the garage, I built an indoor mini-greenhouse out of a 3 foot high by 4 foot or so long shelving unit, a couple of florescent lights, a heating pad and some painter’s drop plastics to keep the humidity and head in.

In that, Roger and I have planted cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, butternut squash, gourds (the birdhouse kind), lemon cucumbers, japanese long beans, “red beans” (climbing beans with beautiful flowers), watermelon seeds (that Roger collected from a yummy farmer’s market watermelon he had last year), Sunzilla (16 foot tall sunflowers), eggplant seeds (more farmer’s market seeds), and a mini-herb garden of parsley, dill and basil.

Seedlings 3

The bottom shelf, on top of the heating pad, is the collection of peppers seeds. From left to right:

Desert TepÍn
Some count this as the oldest chile species of the four or so species commonly in cultivation (the other species have many sub-species). In any case, it is a very hot and unique flavored chile pepper. Vicious bite, but doesn’t last. Hard as hell to grow — takes a long time to germinate with a low germination rate. I’ll be lucky if any of the seeds germinate.
Red Savina Habanero
This is often counted as the hottest pepper in the world by scoville units (though England has a new pepper that may be hotter). However, the Tepin is counted as hotter by some. In any case, this is a classic habanero. I would rather be growing a Scotch Bonnett, but this’ll do this year.
The basic Serrano pepper. A staple in a all kinds of cooking when you simply need some distinct chile heat without being either overwhelming in flavor or hot. I greatly prefer Serrano to Jalapeno.
“Red Devil Pepper”
I have no idea what kind of pepper this really is. The ripe fruit is about 2.5″ long and 3/4″ of an inch in diameter. It is extremely hot with a very distinct flavor. Larger (and hotter) than a Thai Hot. It was left behind in the garden plot that we took over near the end of last year.
Black Pasillo or Ancho Chile
This is an Ancho chile pepper whose seeds my parents collected while we were in Mexico (Baja trip). This particular variety was claimed to be one of the most expensive chiles in Mexico. In any case, it will dry well and make for a wonderful base to home made chile powder.

Giant Tomato Plant in Late November?

Saturday, November 26th, 2005
Giant Tomato

I’m still getting used to the growing seasons in California. Pictured at left is the (yes, 1) cherry tomato plant that I planted in early May. It produced many a yummy tomato, though the damned rats got most of them.

Now it is late November and the plant seems to think it is spring! In late September, it mostly died back. That seemed to simply be a prelude to insane growth. And it has flowered and set fruit!

I’m betting that the first hard frost will kill the plant. Yet, the vegetation is dense enough and it is sheltered by the fence to the point where it wouldn’t surprise me if it survived such a frost.

Other than adding some really good compost from the city of Sunnyvale and watering the plant regularly, I didn’t do anything special. Largest Tomato plant I have ever grown.

Mystery Veg Identified: Balsam Pear

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005
Mystery Fruit or Vegetable

The mystery fruit has been identified!

Daniel Jalkut suggested that it looked like this photo claiming to be a Balsam Apple. I think the photo is mislabeled and this is actually a Balsam Pear or Bitter Gourd.

Mystery Fruit or Vegetable

This difference appears to be important as the Balsam Apple is toxic while the Balsam Pear / Bitter Gourd can be cooked and eaten. I hope I find another gourd on the vine as I’m looking forward to tasting it.

Gardening: I’ve got a plot!

Monday, September 19th, 2005
Mystery Fruit or Vegetable

I now have a gardening plot in the local community garden! Woot! I had been on the waiting list for over a year. Turnover is pretty low as there are quite a few folks that have lived in the neighborhood for decades.

However, the family that had the plot ran afoul of the community garden police back in late June. In particular, the extended family showed up, stripped the fruit trees and let their kids run wild through the garden.

New Garden Plot

So, they got tossed. Now, I took possession of the plot on Sunday. The plot has had nearly zero care beyond watering since late June. If you are familiar with the Northern Californian climate, stuff grows incredibly well. Supremely well. Unfortunately, that includes both desirable plants and weeds (some of which are desirable).

More pictures of the plot and more info follows. The gardening feed will contain updates to my great garden adventure. In particular, it’ll contain my efforts to document the rather odd collection of stuff (like that orange thing pictured above) that I have inherited in the plot.
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