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Archive for May, 2009

Okay, there’s no getting around it.  The following photos are pure food porn, taken this morning at the Dupont Circle Freshfarm Market.

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Strawberries were everywhere!

Baby zucchini and summer squash

Baby zucchini and summer squash.

Herb starts for sale.

Herb starts for sale.

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This rhubarb was the reddest at the market. I bought some to make preserves and also syrup for cocktails. More on that in another post.

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Gelato flavors. I might need to try the thai coconut next week.

Delicate poppies in assorted colors.

Delicate poppies in assorted colors.

Keswick Creamery cheeses.  Simply wonderful.

Keswick Creamery cheeses. Simply wonderful.

Hothouse-grown tomatoes.  Field-grown tomatoes will be here soon!

Hothouse-grown tomatoes. Field-grown tomatoes will be here soon!

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Lately I’ve had foraging on the brain, and specifically I’ve been wondering about urban foraging in a place like DC.  Traditionally, of course, foraging connotes going out into the wild to find naturally occurring foodstuffs.  But I suppose there’s no reason people shouldn’t help the process along.  The Washington Post’s All We Can Eat blog has a post about an herb garden at U Street and New Hampshire that invites neighbors to “forage” from it:

Urban foragers, this one’s for you. On the sidewalk between Subway and Starbucks, on New Hampshire Avenue NW, right near the intersection with U Street, is a wire-bound raised bed of herbs. The gates are unlocked, and you can reach in and pick. It’s okay. Go ahead. You really can.

This rectangular piece of bounty has been brought to you by Local 16, a U Street restaurant. Aman Ayoubi, one of the owners, says the restaurant has been growing organic, biodynamic, heirloom produce at Whipple Farms in Culpeper, Va., and a year ago decided to create this little plot of organic herbs outside its back door. “We thought we’d share with the neighbors and see if they want to use the herbs for their own cooking,” he said.

Okay, so maybe this is more “sharing” than “foraging.”  But it’s a great idea.  Herbs are something that, for the most part, you can harvest the amount you need for a meal while still leaving plenty for other people (and for the plant to keep thriving).  They also require minimal tending, so nobody has to put in a huge amount of effort to be able to provide free herbs to the neighborhood.  There should be more of these public herb gardens!  I smell a trend in the making.

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It’s almost June, and I can now make some assessments of the spring crops. There are some things that I’ll grow more of next year, and some things that don’t seem worth planting again.

radish_partyRadishes: The regular radishes were great, especially when they were small. I didn’t care for radishes before this, but these were great. I also planted watermelon radishes, and they were a total failure. They never fattened at all before bolting. Next year I will plant only the regular kind, or maybe also some french radishes like the ones pictured here. I’m also going to make sure to do successive plantings so the radishes don’t all mature at once.

Arugula: Definitely a success, although ditto on needing to do successive plantings. The arugula variety I planted was quite spicy, so I might also look for a mild type just to balance things out.

Chinese Broccoli: Great germination rate, but the stalks were kind of stringy. I might try regular broccoli or cabbage next year.

Kale: It’s been growing pretty slowly, so I haven’t tried any yet. But I like kale a lot, and supposedly it overwinters well. The kale stays in the picture.

Peas: The sugar snap peas were the first to mature, which is a point in their favor. The yield wasn’t especially impressive, though. Still, it’s great to have that early crop, so I’ll plant a row of it again next year. The snow peas had lovely purple flowers, but the pods got tough really quickly. The small, tender pods seem to require harvesting every day, which I can’t do since my plot isn’t right near my apartment. I think I won’t plant them next year. My English shell peas (Wando variety) haven’t matured yet, but I can already see they’re going to have a great yield. Definite keepers.

Swiss Chard: The baby greens have been great in salads, and now that the plants are growing up they look robust and healthy. Plus they supposedly can last through the summer without bolting with proper maintenance, and can overwinter to some extent.

baby_bok_choyBaby Bok Choy: Kinda stringy, and bolted too quickly. I think this is a better one to leave to the professionals.

Lettuces and greens: Lots of successes. Black-Seeded Simpson and Sweet Valentine Romaine were especially tasty and prolific. Mizuna and chicory are nice for bitter greens. Mache failed completely and spinach was only so-so, but that probably has more to do with the particular variety not being suited to this climate. Overall, though, I think I planted about the right number of linear feet of salad greens this year, but perhaps I could have staggered the plantings a bit more.

Collards: I haven’t harvested any collard greens yet, though I could have, so I’m still counting it my spring crops.  Harvest is in the plans for this weekend.  The plants are gorgeous and very healthy, and a friend told me they overwinter well. These can stay, although I’ll have to pull out a couple of plants that are crowding my rhubarb.

Strawberries: I’m keeping these tasty babies!  I’m still going on the theory that they’re Tri-Stars.  I’d even plant more strawberries if I had the space.   Perhaps I’ll plant some alpine strawberries, like the ones pictured here.  They don’t send out runners, so they can go anywhere in the garden.

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The Roses of DC

The DC blog Prince of Petworth is fabulous in many ways, but some of my favorite posts are those in which the blogger posts photos of houses and storefronts and everyday neighborhood scenes from his walks around DC. When we think of the term “sightseeing” we think of visiting some important landmark or destination. Routine commutes, on the other hand, are about getting from Point A to Point B. But I’m trying to change my way of thinking and start being a little more observant when I walk around DC.

These days when I take the time to really look at the neighborhoods I’m walking through, I notice how many roses there are everywhere. It is definitely rose season here in DC.

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Sometimes you’ve got to stop and photograph the roses.

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Less than a month ago, the cucurbits were just cotyledons pushing up out of their peat pots.  I planted them outside maybe three weeks ago, and every week since then they’ve more than doubled in size.  In twelve days, the zucchini went from this:

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to this:

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There are baby zucchini and summer squash in the market already.  At this rate, I may have some of my own within the next month.

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There are a few big fir trees around my family’s house in Olympia, Washington, and on a couple of occasions my mother has found truffles near the firs’ root systems. For clarity, she had one tested and they are indeed Oregon White Truffles. Just this weekend she found another trove of them:

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Except for the big one shaped like a nose, these are fairly small truffles. But as I mentioned earlier this month, my mother is hoping to train the handsomesammy_at_six_months pup pictured at right to sniff out truffles in the forest floor. Maybe they’ll find some really big ones! Truffles are extremely expensive and highly prized, and they are virtually impossible to cultivate. I don’t think I’ve ever even had truffles myself, just some truffle-infused olive oil. I can’t wait to try them the next time I’m back in the Pacific Northwest during truffle season, assuming we can find some.

As far as I know, truffles do not exist out here in the Mid-Atlantic region. But there are other wild fungi in the area. Morels, of course, have already made appearances on this blog, and I’ve heard there are chanterelles in these parts. If I’m not too busy next month, I’d like to attend a meeting of the Mycological Association of Washington and learn more about mushroom foraging. They apparently lead forays to mushroom hotspots in the region and teach beginners how to distinguish the good fungi from the ones that will kill you. Rather useful, that knowledge.

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more_peas_strawberriesLast week The Arugula Files posted about a delicious-sounding salad with arugula, strawberries, and feta with a red wine vinaigrette.  Both visually and taste-wise, strawberries really do make a great addition to salads.  Their sweet, tart flavor is a  pleasing contrast to both mild and bitter salad greens, and they also pair well with other things likely to be found in salads, such as vinegar, herbs, and cheese.

Salad was an especially good use for my strawberries this past Saturday, when I wanted to share the literal fruits of my garden, but didn’t have anywhere near enough to make a dessert with.  We halved the strawberries and peas pictured above and tossed them into a bowl of mixed salad greens from my garden.

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I also made sure to include a lot of fresh basil leaves in with the salad greens.  I’ve had cocktails at trendy bars that combined the flavors of strawberry and basil, so I figured if the combo works in a martini, it could work in a salad.  The dressing was a simple balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette with a little salt and pepper, with some chive flowers thrown in for extra kick.

The salad was delicious, and oddly enough it got better as it sat in the sun while we ate it.  I think the heat helped unlock even more herb and strawberry flavor.  Along with some brewed green tea mixed over ice with Trader Joe’s mango lemonade, this meal helped our Memorial Day Weekend get off to a tasty and healthy start.

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