It looks like someone else enjoys magnolia flowers that look like porcelian as much as I do.


A photo posted by GambleGarden (@gamblegarden) on

Gardener’s World

Nigel Slater wrote about how much he enjoyed the past season of Gardener’s World on Twitter. I’ve watched the first 5 episodes, and I don’t mind spending time listening to the advice of their gardeners either. Their enthusiasm and positivity are contagious. There is a good mix of horticultural knowledge– vegetable gardens, ornamental plants, tree pruning.

I have not previously grown hellebores, and the series has me looking forward to potting a few this winter.



Oatmeal is my favorite food. One reason I like oatmeal is because the ingredients help with satiety. The meal is also special because the two main ingredients- milk and grain- taste good by themselves or with additional, more complex flavors. Cocoa powder, chopped peaches or apples with cinnamon, and herbs with a fried egg  are a few of the easiest ways I turn oatmeal into a more substantial meal.

I was reading about the variations on porridge found in each culture. Oat, wheat, and maize are the grains I use most often to make porridge. I never realized how many more there were to choose from. Semolina porridge is at the top of my list after trying basbousa this summer. The previously unknown varieties will be fun to explore this fall for a warm meal. Whole milk for me.

It was suggested I stop at Cafe Aquatica for spectacular coffee (and views) while traveling along the Mendocino Coast. I couldn’t help but ask for oatmeal while I was there. The gentleman working at the cafe explained to me that I would have to purchase my oatmeal in the form of a cookie at his store. I prefer to enjoy my porridge hot and coagulated, but their coffee and views made me happy to eat dessert with my breakfast.


Point Arena, California

There is a town in Mendocino County, California called Point Arena. The town has a farm called Windy Hollow Farm. Windy Hollow Farm enjoys gardening, cooking nutritious meals, and creating meaningful learning experiences for young people. Windy Hollow Farm and I have this in common.

The drive to get to the town is absolutely beautiful. There are perennial grasses, succulents, wild flowers, and pink lilies. There are ranches on one side of the road and beaches on the other. The cliffs are steep enough to make me occasionally hold my breath. The main street has a gardening store that made me forget that I didn’t have time to stop in Baker Creek’s Seed Bank in Petaluma on the way here.

Point Arena is a special town, and I am excited to visit Windy Hollow Farm tomorrow.

Farm fresh goodness for the road.

A photo posted by Windy Hollow Farm Crew (@windyhollowfarm) on



Interplanting vs. Seaweed


The pepper plants have more buds each day. The flowers on each plant are blooming, but there are also ants eating the flowers. I never had this problem while gardening. I thought back to what I did differently this season. My guess is that seaweed is more helpful in the garden than I realized. I applied a seaweed spray in the past which helps plants tolerate temperatures (warmer or colder) out of their hardiness zones and deters pests. The nutrients in seaweed are also beneficial to the plants. I did not use seaweed this summer, and I am glad I know how helpful it can be.

Interplanting is a second strategy that made me curious when I looked around Blackshear Neighborhood Garden. There are a decent amount of cover crops growing at the same time as the other collections of plants. The cover crops provide nutrients to the soil and can also act as a trap crop. Interplanting seems to be a viable alternative to spraying seaweed solution. I have grow plants within close proximity of each other as companion plants in the past, but not with the thought of using them as a trap crop.


One of the three varieties of peas that were shared with the garden is climbing the trellis. There will be more growing soon on the trellis where the mellon plants grew!


July 17, 2016



1/2 sliced onion

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon dill seeds

2 banana pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 hot house cucumber

5 peppercorns


1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon dill seed


1. Boil brine (apple cider vinegar, water, salt, and dill seed).

2.Cool the brine.

3.Pour the brine over the jar ingredients.

4.Smile and wait about 7 days.


The peppers in the garden are starting to grow. There are banana peppers, scorpion peppers, and serrano peppers. The peppers will be used to make hot sauce, but it is also cucumber season. Trisha Shirey has a Central Texas Gardener video on Youtube about how to make icebox pickles. I am excited to use the banana peppers to flavor ice box pickles next weekend.


The drip tape that was removed from the scorpion pepper plants turned out to be a tremendous improvement. The pepper plants do not need much water, and they have many more buds as a result. The scorpion peppers could be used to flavor pickles, but I think I will use the scorpion and serrano peppers for hot sauce.


The pickles take about a week to marinate in brine, and the scorpion and serrano peppers should grow to a harvestable size in about two weeks. I am dreaming up turkey sandwich combinations in my head as I tell myself to patiently wait for the arrival of the spicy peppers. John Mueller Meat Co. is close to my home. The pickles and hot sauce will make a good sandwich with Mueller’s turkey.

Figs and Pastries

Twelve figs came home with me from the garden on Tuesday. There were animals nibbling on the fruit, so I climbed on the work table to check their ripeness. The figs had sap in their eyes. They came off the tree branch with little force. Tasting one made me realize it is not too early in the season for some of the fruit to have delicious red pulp and fleshy meat.


I feel selfish when I harvest food in any quantity from shared spaces, but I had a particular recipe in mind. The good news? The tree is well established, and there are plenty of figs for other gardeners to enjoy. Nigel Slater’s observer column had a recipe for pistachio and blueberry pastries. Three ingredients- pistachios, apricot jam, and blueberries – were substituted with pecans, pear jam, and figs.

There was no pear jam at the grocery store, so I decided to make my own. Food and Wine has a recipe from Rachel Saunders that I was happy to use as a guide. Vanilla extract can be used to flavor the jam, and the recipe will turn out fine.

The recipe in The Observer mentions purchasing puff pastry at the store. I was interested in making puff pastry. Martha Stewart has a video on puff pastry that will leave a baker with 729 layers of crispy, flaky, delicious dough. The only steps left  6 hours later are spreading the fig-pear-pecan-mixture over the dough, rolling the rectangle of pastry dough into a log, and slicing the cylinder into 8 cross-sections.


I can’t think of a better way to celebrate fig season.



There was time to garden on Tuesday morning. The early visit proved to be helpful for more than a few reasons. The water system and drip tape are a great way to save water and make sure plants are watered as close as possible to their roots. The timer is set for around 7:30 a.m., and the drip tape was laid in the afternoon without me seeing if the water pressure evenly distributes water throughout the garden. There were a few pepper plants getting more water than they need. The plants should do better with the adjustments.

Gardening on Tuesday morning was also helpful because pea plant seeds sprouted. Bush beans were planted earlier in the spring. Seeds can have a hard time germinating or go completely dormant if they aren’t properly saved from season to season. The bush beans did not sprout, and I thought greens and lettuce were going to be the only crop I have directly seeded with success to date. A family who helps organize the garden shared 3 varieties of peas with the gardeners– old timer peas, purple hull pink eye peas, and Thai purple-podded long beans. The fresh pea seeds did the trick.


The peas will make for enjoyable garden food once they grow. There are melons on the way too. The mint in the garden was also a welcomed addition to the zucchini, feta, and artichoke pizza I made this weekend.




Garden Food

There is a florist at Walton’s Fancy and Staple named Bernie who is very kind. I asked her what her favorite flower is one day, and she told me she loves gardenias. Bernie can do great things to a flower arrangement. She pairs orchids with pearl succulents. She can also bring alstroemeria, peonies, ranuculus, and hydrangeas together in the cleverest of ways. Gardenias are special flowers, and they share their name with an equally special food.

Gardenia (or sometimes giardiniera) is a mix of vegetables, almost always including cauliflower, that is marinated in vinegar with spices. You might see large glass jars full of giardiniera at an Italian market. There is also the chance of gardenia including eggplant and zucchini depending on how geography and culture influence the recipe. 

I made gardenia with the help of herbs from the garden this weekend. The recipe included less than exact measurements but tasted great. A head of cauliflower, 1 eggplant, and 2 zucchini cut and roasted in olive oil with sea salt at 375 degrees. Cumin, coriander, and garlic were added to the roasted vegetables– about a teaspoon of each. 3 or 4 tablespoons of white vinegar completed the recipe.

The gardenia marinated in the refrigerator for about 2 hours while I collected sorrel, lemon verbena, and thyme from the garden. The lemon verbena and thyme were added to socca batter. The sorrel was used as a garnish for the gardenia. And of course, a fried egg for good measure.



Gardens help make the best food.