Wednesday, March 26, 2014

why we garden

In case you need any more encouragement to grow some of your own food, here's a passage from the always insightful, ever inspiring Wendell Berry:

"If you have a yard or even just a porch box or a pot in a sunny window, grow something to eat in it. Make a little compost of your kitchen scraps and use it for fertilizer. Only by growing some food for yourself can you become acquainted with the beautiful energy cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal to decay, and around again. You will be fully responsible for any food that you grow for yourself, and you will know all about it. You will appreciate it fully, having known it all its life."

Remember, you don't need a huge yard or a traditional garden space to grow your own food. Find any spot with some sun and a little soil (this can be a container, of course) and you can grow some food. Don't have much sun? Grow a little lettuce, arugula, kale or chard. These don't need as much sun as a tomato, and will make you feel very successful.

Need more of Mr. Berry's inspiring words? Read more of his thoughts on The Pleasure of Eating.

Happy gardening,

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

a little inspiration

I had a wonderful time in the Twin Cities these past few weeks, speaking to lots of enthusiastic gardeners about edible landscaping. It was great meeting so many of you and discussing ideas for your gardens.

If you weren't able to join me, or if you would simply like to see some inspiring photos, here is a copy of one of my presentations for you to peruse. Hope you get some ideas you can use in your garden this year.

Also, if you didn't have a chance to pick up a copy of The Edible Landscape and have it signed while I was in town, you can order a copy right here. I'll sign it for you and you'll have it in your hands in just a few days. Look over on the right side of this page for ordering info.

Thanks again to all of you who joined me to talk about edible landscapes these last couple weeks. I had an absolute blast!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

talking edible landscaping in march

It is finally March, which means it is now not too crazy to start thinking about spring. And when we think about spring we starting thinking about our gardens. Some of you surely have trays of tiny seedlings scattered around the house, getting a jump on the growing season.

This is the time of year for inspiration, dreaming, and planning; it's the time of year that the Twin Cities comes alive with garden expos, home and garden shows and all kinds of events to cure - or maybe just crank up - our spring fever.

I'll be speaking about edible landscaping at several events over the next couple of weeks, and I'd love to see you there. Do you have a copy of The Edible Landscape you'd like signed? Bring it along. Don't have a copy yet? You can purchase a copy at any of these events.

Registration is required for most of these events, so check the links below for more information.

Hope to see you!

March 8
Chaska, MN

March 8 (Yes, two in the same day!)
Rosemount, MN

March 13

Wescott Library
Eagan, MN

March 19
Dakota Garden Club - for members only
South St. Paul, MN

March 20
Minnesota State Horticultural Society

Monday, July 8, 2013

a foray into cheesedom

Forgive me, but this post has nothing to do with gardening. In fact it has nothing to do with fruits, vegetables, herbs or flowers. It has to do with cheese. And while it may not fit exactly into the theme of this blog, I have to tell you about it.

I have recently found myself engaged in the craft of making cheese at home. Nothing fancy, I've simply made a couple batches of ricotta so far. But a new book I have on making cheese has got me fascinated and, so far, reeling from the deliciousness of it. I cannot get over how simple it is. For ricotta, you simply boil some pasture fed, organic whole milk; add a couple spoonfuls of vinegar, let it sit a while and voila! Pure, milky, creamy delicious ricotta. You have not tasted ricotta till you have tasted it fresh. That rubbery stuff in the grocery store tubs...I'm sorry, I just don't think I can buy it anymore.

So, I made my first batch and used it in one of my staple summer recipes, a zucchini galette. The base of this galette is normally a temptingly rich mixture of ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella. To get the full effect of my fresh ricotta, I skipped the other two cheeses and let the ricotta rule the day. The fresh, grassy, creamy, ricotta seductively melded with the bright, fruity zucchini more perfectly than I have ever tasted. (Hey, I just mentioned a vegetable! There, now this post is legit.) Enrobed in a crisp olive oil pastry, each bite was nothing short of heavenly. I thought, 'this is ricotta at its best'.


This evening while a chicken and vegetable curry simmered on the stove, I thought 'I must do something with the leftovers of my latest batch of ricotta'. A quick web search for 'chocolate ricotta dessert recipes' (yes, the chocolate part was essential) yielded an array of cheesecakes, puddings and cannoli. Pudding...that sounds perfect. The few recipes I scanned were overly fussy, so I had to improvise. In went my fresh ricotta to the mini food processor. A drizzle of agave nectar (I don't know why, I've just had a bottle of it around and it seemed like a good use for it), a couple spoonfuls of cocoa and a dash of cinnamon. Oh and a splash of vanilla. Whir-whir-whir, and then...

The most delicious thing I think I have ever tasted. Seriously. And I've made a LOT of desserts. Some rather spectacular ones I might confess. But this was different. Unpretentious, pure, clean, unadulterated chocolate with the freshness of a crisp spring morning on a rustic Italian farm. I'm telling you, this is better than any mousse, panna cotta, creme anglaise, or flan that you might labor over for hours. The density makes it taste incredibly decadent, while the freshness lends it lightness. Total contrasts that result in something utterly sublime. And it took all of about 5 minutes to put together.

I can't give you an exact recipe because this was a mere tossing together of ingredients. It depends on your taste, and I think a little bit of 'non so che'...add a little more cocoa, a little less sweetener for a bittersweet treat. Add a little milk if you like. Use sugar, honey, whatever you fancy. Maybe add a touch of chili for a little kick. Whatever you do, get out there and make yourself some ricotta. You will never be the same.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rhubarb Confessions

If you've read my book, you might have noticed a glaring omission: I don't mention all. (At least not that I remember.) Well, I have a confession to make. I've been holding out, but now is the time to admit...I have never grown rhubarb. It's true. I've lived in the Midwest most of my life, and for some unknown reason it has never shown up in a garden I've tended. For my own part, that's probably because A) I've never lived in one place long enough to reap the benefits or B) the places I've lived haven't really lended themselves well to this perennial mainstay (an apartment, a houseboat, and now a National Park). That said, I love baking with rhubarb, so I am often the happy recipient of colorful stalks from friends and family.

Rhubarb's beautiful red petioles, about to join strawberries in a delicious baked crumble. Photo from
Now, if you're a Midwestern gardener, there's probably little I need to say to convince you that rhubarb is a great plant for the home landscape, because it's most likely already there (and has been for generations, or has followed your family from house to house if the stories I hear are true). So I'm writing this to convince myself as much as anyone else (although living in a National Park I won't be planting it in my yard any time soon - they have rules about things like that).

Rhubarb is the perfect perennial for the Northern garden because it pops up before just about anything else in the spring, and it actually loves cold temperatures. The Michigan Bulb Company says this to describe 'Victoria' rhubarb:  "Thrives best in regions with cool, moist summers and winters cold enough to freeze to a depth of several inches." Music to my Northern ears. Rhubarb will grow in just about any soil, can handle some shade, has very few pest problems, is harvested in June while most other garden plants are just getting going, and will produce for years and years. What's not to like? What's more, it's a great space filler, and looks spectacular. It is distinctly reminiscent of Swiss chard with it's large glossy leaves and deep red petioles, so naturally I'm a fan.

Rhubarb makes a great mass planting in the landscape. There's a lot of green in those big fleshy leaves, so add some color with bright ornamentals, or keep it subtle by combining rhubarb with various greens and other deep hues. You don't necessarily need bright color to make things interesting. Harmonious and subdued colors are pretty dang classy, as you can see here.

Famed edible landscaper Rosalind Creasy captured this lovely rhubarb combo at the Denver Botanical Garden. Great subtle mix of rhubarb, oregano, parsley and amaranth.

There are countless sources on growing rhubarb, and they're pretty straightforward because it's just about the easiest perennial to grow. Check out a few of these sources if you're just getting started. It's not too late to get rhubarb started this year. It needs a year to grow before you start harvesting anyway, so pick a big empty spot in the garden and get some in there.

And if you're a bit limited on space as I am, take a look at the links below that talk about growing rhubarb in containers. There aren't a whole lot of people talking about this, but I'm getting some started this season in a couple large containers to give it a try. Overwintering potted perennials is always the tricky part because they need to get cold to enter dormancy, but could be damaged because the roots are basically exposed to air temperature. I have access to a cold cellar space which could prove to be perfect for overwintering potted rhubarb. I might also try wrapping one of my rhubarb containers with some straw and burlap. I'll let you know what happens. 

Now that's a big container.
Photo borrowed from The Enduring Gardener.

Have you grown rhubarb in a container? Got any tricks? Leave a comment if you're willing to share your secrets.

Info on Growing Rhubarb

People Growing Rhubarb in Containers

Happy growing,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

books are selling fast

Have you been looking for a copy of The Edible Landscape and finding it is not available? Here's the deal seems the first printing of my book sold out way faster than my publisher expected - hooray for me, but not for you. The second printing is on its way, but won't be available until the end of April. If you can hold out till then, you'll be able to get your copy at all the usual big retailers. Put in your order soon, because the second printing is already 50% sold!

If you just can't wait, I have great news. I have a stash of copies right here at home just waiting to be mailed to anyone needing to get their creative gardening ideas up and running. I'm afraid I can't sell them quite as cheaply as Amazon and those other big guys, because I don't get the discount deal they do. But, if you do choose to buy from me, you could maybe feel kinda good about supporting a new author directly...just a thought. And here's a plus, this way you can have your copy signed by the author (that's me!)

Even my stock of books is dwindling fast, so if you just can't wait until the end of April for your copy to arrive, pop on over to the right side of this page and click Buy Now and you'll be able to place your order quickly and easily. Be sure to choose whether you want your copy signed or not. If not, don't worry, I shall take no offense.  I receive order notifications instantly, so your book will be in Priority Mail within a few hours of placing your order, and in your mailbox 2 or 3 days later. How's that for fast?

Whether you order from me or wait till the next printing is available, I am just thrilled that you're interested in this book and this great way of gardening.The more of us who start working edibles into our landscapes, the more we'll start seeing food plants everywhere - back yards, front yards, from the tiniest balcony to the grandest estates. All providing delicious fresh food for our families, friends and neighbors. And the more we all get accustomed to these plants being attractive and really adding to the beauty of the landscape, the more they'll start showing up in commercial landscaping where they might feed employees, and of course in schoolyards where they'll feed our kids. Let's get this thing going. Edibles everywhere!

Monday, March 18, 2013

fruit resources updated

Egads! I just noticed that the links on the growing fruit page were outdated. I have just updated them all, so you should now be able to get to those resources with ease.

I'll be going through the blog over the next couple of days, checking links and updating. Please, if you notice any bad links, leave a comment and I'll take care of it right away.