Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Basil Tea


I love love love basil tea. I learned about it when I was looking for ideas to use the flowerheads I pick off the plants. (I don't let them bloom because it makes the leaves bitter.)

Here's the method I use to brew:
1. Harvest blooms or leaves.
2. Muddle with a couple tablespoons of sugar. This releases all the great flavor.
3. Pour cold water over the leaves.
4. Add sweetener to taste. I use different ones depending on my mood. I like raw sugar, honey, agave or stevia.
5. Leave it in the fridge for several hours. At least 8, but 24 is better.

You could use hot water like regular tea. But I think that changes the flavor.

You could also use basil to flavor regular tea-leaf tea.

It's the perfect drink for sipping while sitting on the balcony, watching the sky darken, and feeling the first cool breeze of the evening.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ichiban eggplant blooms and babies


I am completely, perfectly, and radiantly in love with eggplant blossoms. The way the light shines through and highlights the wrinkles; the contrast between the dark, solid purple stem, delicate and rumpled lavender petal and glowingly yellow stamens. Someone should breed an eggplant for the flowers instead of the fruits.

Not that the fruits aren't nice. And here's a photo of the first one of the year! Ichiban (Japanese) eggplants are long and slender, not bulb/egg-shaped. They're supposed to have a sweeter flavor and do well in containers. Though it looks like I might have to stake them. They're growing kind of crooked.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sprouted onions - flower update


The onions that sprouted in my pantry last March are tall and blooming! The flowers are pretty in a sculptural kind of way. I think it's especially fun since usually you look down at onions growing in the garden, but since these are planted chest-high, you have to look up. I think it would be really cool to plant onions like this all the way across the balcony — they'd make a kind of screen. But then they'd blow over and I wouldn't have room to grow anything useful.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pea pods


Garden peas

Snow peas

This is just about all the harvest I got this year – barely a bowl-full of each type. Sad :(

I'm starting to think peas aren't worth growing. (I think this is about all I got out of them last year, too.) They take up a good chunk of space, are annoying to get to climb up supports (I've seriously never had a stupider plant), and don't produce all that much for the space.

Since I don't have much room, I think there are other things I'd rather grow. And it would be nice to open up a little more space. I know my man would appreciate that.

Although, nothing beats the taste of fresh peas. And, the leaves and stems of the pea plant are edible, and although it's getting pretty late in the season (when the stems get woody and stringy). Like many greens (like spinach) they're perfectly fine to eat raw — toss them in a salad or as a garnish. Or you can cook them.

I harvested just the newest, most tender growth.

Sauteed in a little oil

Finished with salt and pepper.

Even the strings are edible, though the texture is very weird. Some of the stems were too woody and unpalatable, but the leaves were still OK.

And that's my culinary adventure for the week ;)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

GROW — June update


Spitfires in a small planter with a trellis. May 15.

In the big planter - May 20th

May 20

Today. The plants in the near planter haven't grown at all in the last few weeks. The ones in the far planter are doing OK, not fantastic, just OK. I have no idea what the problem is. Probably something with the soil, but I don't know how that would have happened — this dirt both grew herbs last year, and was amended with compost this spring. :(

In the big planter, they are FANTASTIC! The newest leaves are huge — 5" across!

And they're getting big enough to peek through the railing.

Still no flowers though.

"I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project. Thanks, to Renee's Garden for the seeds."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Balcony gardening is contagious


I'm very flattered when people comment that they're impressed or jealous of the gardening I've managed to do on my balcony. But, I know balcony gardening isn't just for people with the time and resources I have to put into this hobby. Heck, almost 3 years ago I started with just a couple pots of scraggly little herbs. Then I became a bit obsessed.

OK. Maybe more than a bit.

Last year, I struggled to find a few photos of balcony gardens in my neighborhood. And I was sad that more people didn't have a garden as a part of their home. This summer, the story is different. Here are a few photos of my neighbors. I found a lot more apartments with plants on the balconies than I found last year. Maybe gardening is contagious?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lovely evening on the balcony


Cool air, a glass of wine and a new book made for a lovely evening on the balcony.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Balcony garden update — pea flowers, tomatoes, peppers


The snow peas are blooming. I just love their little pink flowers!

When they outgrew their stakes they started weaving their tendrils into the back of the chair. So, I don't have to worry about building another trellis, but I can't move the chair.

The garden peas are moving quickly. I just harvested a couple pods this morning and ate the peas raw. They were so cool and sweet. I hope a good bunch of them will ripen at the same time, so I can have a bowl of fresh, steamed peas with butter and salt. Mmmmm.

And I noticed I have a few tiny baby tomatoes!

The Anaheim pepper isn't looking that great. It's dropping blooms — a problem I had with all my peppers last year except for the Anaheim. It may be because of the extremely high temperatures (highs in the upper 90s) we had Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It ought to send out more flowers if the temperature evens out. Just to be sure, I watered it with a solution of Epsom salt; I guess sometimes they like a bit extra magnesium.

I haven't had any problems with the bell peppers or this Garden Salsa pepper — it even has 3 little peppers growing already.