Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Basilica sunset

We're lucky to have a beautiful Basilica in downtown Asheville -- I don't remember all of the particulars at the moment, but it was built following a gifted architect's plans, and is a gem.

Looping through downtown this evening, Woody and I saw the sunset beyond the Eastern white pines, with the basilica to the left.  

My iPhone didn't get anything close to the image I saw, but imagine this in focus and in technicolor.

A Basilica sunset

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wild plant foraging, phytonutrients, weeds, and other thoughts

I started my botanical career early on. 

I was fascinated about the plants that grew in the city: in sidewalk cracks, in vacant lots, and along roadsides. A summer spent outside NYC when I was 12 found me peering at these survivors.  How did they grow in these inhospitable places?

I was equally fascinated by the wild, native plants that I saw in the national parks that my family visited (we were tent campers, visiting most of the western national parks, as I grew up).  And, I spent a summer on Mt. Hood as a high-school student interested in science, too, many years ago. Amazing. I visited there again after 40 years, a couple of years ago.
So, when I went off to graduate school, it wasn't surprising that I gravitated towards plants, and weedy ones, at that.  I spent a decade and half studying weedy species and their population biology -- they're incredibly interesting in terms of their germination strategies, vegetative spread, etc. 

At the same time, growing up, I was also interested in nutrition, health, and the welfare of the planet.  My mom was an Adelle Davis fan, and my interests tended towards that, as well.  

"Which carrot, grown where?" Davis wrote.   I'm reminded of this as I'm coming across, increasingly, suggestions that foraging wild foods is incredibly healthful (these wild plants are supposedly extra-rich in phytonutrients -- a very broad category, to be sure). 

But what's really got me musing about this is when my familiar weed favorites pop up as "superfoods" or appear in lists as the top 12 of "the wisdom of weeds" in a upcoming book.

This has been happening over the last decade or so with increasing frequency as "wild foraging" in urban neighborhoods has become more popular.

I've eaten many "wild" foods and some are better than others.  I've scratched henbit, chickweed and dandelion off my list already.  Nettles are probably good -- I haven't tried them yet.  Blueberries, wineberries, serviceberries, etc. -- sign me up.

More thoughts to come.  
kale, mustards, and other leafy greens

I already grow so many leafy greens and nutrient-rich vegetables that we eat all year round, along with additional veggies from the local markets, I find it hard to think that eating curly dock after several changes of leaching water before cooking can truly be more nutritious than my leafy dark kales, mustards, and other greens, grown in good soil! 

Monday, August 31, 2015

A transitional vegetable garden

The darn green beans keep producing, but it's heartening to see seedlings of spinach, arugula, mustard- spinach, lettuce, and creasy-greens come along nicely. Transplanted leeks, lettuce, and rapini are looking good, too.

And I'm hopeful for quite a few more tomatillos and ancho peppers in the next month or so, as well as the thick-walled pizza peppers coming along in pots.

The poblano/ancho peppers are a great variety called "Magnifico" and they're truly tasty. I bought a transplant at the WNC Herb Festival this spring, but tracked down a source of seeds today - Territorial Seeds - and ordered some for next season. They have a sweetness that anchos don't normally have and are a bit thicker-walled than most. Excellent!

I'm just about ready to pull out the final squash vines, but until they look truly dreadful, we'll enjoy them. Garlic (on the way) will replace them in the lower bed, along with the resurgent perennial leeks!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lotus fruits and lovely gardens

One of the benefits of living in Asheville is being able to visit the Biltmore Estate. As a passholder, I happily can go anytime, for early morning walks along the French Broad River, or excursions with my gardening companion and Woody through the gardens and a loop around Bass Lake.

I don't give a hoot about the house, but the landscape and gardens (and the preserved views of the mountains and pastoral andscapes) are truly a treasure.  The walk along the French Broad River is wonderful. And the wave of sunflowers that's continued all summer -- lovely!

In recent years, the horticultural aspects of the walled garden and the conservatories has really become excellent, with displays and change-outs great fun to see, however gaudy and Victorian-inspired they might be (this year has been that, certainly!)

This year's late summer walled garden displays
The Italian Garden looks wonderful this year -- there must be a new gardener in charge, as it's always been pretty ho-hum before.

In late summer, it's full of all sorts of interesting aquatics, and wonderful lotus fruits in the side pools.

Italian Garden (at Biltmore)
Lotus fruits and fading leaves

Friday, August 28, 2015

A glut of green beans

My message in vegetable gardening programs is to plant what you like to eat, just enough for what you want to eat and preserve (whether freezing, canning, etc.) and not anything more.

Small vegetable gardening spaces have kept me honest in this regard; even when I had more space, various critters and soil pests combined to make things manageable.

But this year, for some reason, my pole beans on trellises have been pest-free, and have kept producing for weeks and weeks... how many green beans can the two of us eat? 

I've frozen them plain, cooked them with garlic and onions, frozen those, too, made a delicious green bean, mint, and peanut salad (thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi's wonderful recipe), cooked more beans with mushrooms (and frozen those), etc. etc.  Needless to say, eating out this evening, neither of us picked green beens as our side!

And the beans that I've grown are quite delicious (Romano, Emerite, Kentucky Wonder, and a couple of others), so I'm thankful for the abundance, really, as I cooked up yet another batch this evening, after dinner out....
Green beans in late July...hmm, they still look like that, even after the squash succumbed to powdery mildew!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Yet another pocket meadow view

I just keep enjoying the view out the front door.  With a smaller garden, I do see this view all the time, but it keeps the late afternoon light, it was lovely.

The Vernonia, Eupatorium, Sedum, Phlox, etc. just keep flowering.  We're having a cool late August, so maybe flowering is extended.  I'm not complaining! The flower visitors are totally happy.
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