Thursday, February 4, 2016

How to eat dandelions


Thinking of wild foods snacks for my walks. This would have to be assembled on site. Doable, though tricky for vegans and vegetarians. But oh, so good.

What is it? Basically a messed up salade Lyonnaise. Dandelion wilted in olive oil in a pan where bacon just crisped, then deglazed/soused with good vinegar. Pile onto garlic-rubbed bruschetta with not-quite-hard-boiled-eggs and the bacon. Don't forget the pepper.

Crunch.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winter pilgrimage - Dead Horse Bay


A last-minute suggestion by the Frenchman resulted in a Zipcar-driven snowy outing to Dead Horse Bay. Snow makes New York new, and we have made the most of it (maybe that is why my cold/flu/whatever it is won't go away).


I had never seen these paths in the middle of winter before - though I know them well in spring and later summer, when the wild black cherries drip with black pearls of fruit.


A lot of old sumac persevered beside the paths, and in the white crust we saw rabbit prints, a characteristic triangle of indentations.


Bayberry buds have appeared on the shoreline shrubs. If you have full sun and well drained soil, this is an excellent indigenous American herb. Good for rooftops, too, as they tolerate some drought, and wind.


As luck would have - we didn't plan it - the tide was out, and the glass treasure of Dead Horse Bay was exposed. It was a day for blue bottles, the glass, not stinging, kind, and here - below - the sand is being shaken from one - we carried our haul in a kikoi.


The eroding landfill, below.


And its contents end up here. Yep, you need strong shoes.


The end of Schlitz...


Eventually we worked our way right round and headed back inland.


We made a quick tour of nearby Floyd Bennett Field, in the hopes of spotting snowy owls. We stopped for our traditional winter picnic of Fast Tomato Soup (15 minutes from start to Thermos). Later, all we found was the late afternoon sunset, over the Rockaways. No owls. Too warm for owls.


And then it was home on the roaring BQE. Pixillated because of my telephoto (attached for hopeful owls) and no energy to change lenses.


After a two-year hiatus I will lead a spring walk at Dead Horse Bay, which should be a lot fun: I have timed it to coincide with a new moon and an early afternoon low tide. Follow the link for details as well as for the other walks (Fort Tryon, Central Park) that I am adding to the spring schedule.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Snow Cone-y Island


We left Carroll Gardens on the F, riding the rails that rise above it all. 


Looking down we could see the snowed-in streets.


Thirty minutes later, we were at Coney Island. The boardwalk was under snow.


The Russians were out in full force.


The rides lay quiet and loud.


The loops like monsters in the impeccable winter sky.


The Parachute Jump's last jump was in 1968. It was moved to Coney Island in 1941 from the World's Fair site in Queens.


The beach was chilly.


The Russians were equipped.


Full moon, low tide and snow on the beach.


We turned around and headed back.


This man held out an old camera and asked to have his photo taken by the Frenchman, who did so before beating a hasty retreat. But then I stopped and asked to take his picture. He was happy to pose. What is your animal? I asked. A sea rabbit, he said, wagging its mermaid tail. Oh, I said. And where are you both off to? I asked. We're just going to buy some groceries, he said. Ah, I said. And what do sea rabbits eat? I asked.

Seaweed, he said.


Winter is the best time to see Coney Island. Cold, blue, brief.


None of the hordes of summer, when the sky is a white-out haze.


I meant to get a hot dog at Nathan's but we weren't hungry enough, and passed by.


Plenty of digging was still going on. 


But the world was melting fast.


We rode home.


Above the last open spaces near the Gowanus, where cement trucks lay dreaming of construction jobs to come.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Grow Journey - seeds to plan by

Front door edible permaculture. Photo: Grow Journey

I have discovered that one of the things I enjoy most about receiving monthly seeds from Grow Journey is the reading and learning that accompanies each arrival.

Much of what we do well is a combination of a love of the subject, experience and instinct. But when you add solid information and method, the result is good technique.

Good technique is the backbone of most beautiful things. Good food, music, art. Gardens.

So, OK; I wax lyrical. But it's January, and there are feet of snow on the ground here in Brooklyn, and gardeners must think big thoughts in January because they can't do anything else.


Back to those seeds.

When a Seeds of the Month envelope from Grow Journey arrives in the mail, I go straight to my member sign-in on the website and click on the My Seeds tab - this is a personalized member perk, and where the learning begins.

The Grow Journey team has put a lot of effort into background stories for the plants whose seeds you receive monthly, with practical GrowGuides (screenshot below), as well as information on sustainable growing practises - much of which is teaching me details of organic gardening and permaculture that are new to me (and timely, given my gardening move from containers to in-ground).

They are also developing visually sophisticated but practical GrowPlans: graphics that illustrate how to combine particular edible plants for specific exposures, taking into account sun requirements, time of harvest, and plant heights in relation to one another, for maximum aesthetic impact.



So my seeds are arriving and a small pile is growing. What about winter? Well, I'm thinking: which crop will go where, and when, in our vegetable plot - the area (10' x 10') of our back garden where only edibles will be grown, and in the beds on the edge. These side beds have herbs and fruit (blueberries, black raspberries and strawberries) and will have some vegetables, along with many flowering perennial ornamentals. Those are for my pleasure, but are also effectively plant guilds (a permaculture term, basically companion plants), which will provide habitats for beneficial insects and organisms, for the ongoing adventure that is my organic gardening life.

(Which reminds me about the powdered oyster shells, as well as the egg shells I am collecting to pulverize. But those are another story.)


I am very happy about the garden cress (Lepidium sativum) in this month's package (to be sown 4-6 weeks before the last frost). I love salad leaves, and I love peppery cresses; I forage for Barbarea verna every spring, and this one has a similar bite. It will also handle some of the shade that I have.

Grow Journey's Mission reads:

"We’re realists who think that it’s become quite clear that industrial agriculture (as currently practiced) is a demonstrably bad answer to a good question: “How can we feed everyone in the world without destroying it?“ We’re optimists who believe we can help design a better food system: one seed, one person, one yard, and one farm at a time."

Realistic, gardening optimists are hard not to like. I learned at Abalimi bezekhaya that microfarming is probably the answer to world hunger, and to the environmental and ethical ills attendant to massive monoculture (plants or animals). In my foraging and horticultural life, I grow and collect for the kitchen because it gives me pleasure, but also because both practises teach me about how food grows and how it can be grown, as well as the beauty of seasonal eating. I never really understood what we eat until I began to grow it myself.

We need change, and each of us can contribute to that change by amending everyday habits - such as the way we eat and garden. Belonging to a wider community of like-minded growers is one way to achieve this, and that is what Grow Journey offers.

For more information, and how to become a member (there is a 30-day free trial), visit the Grow Journey website. 66 Square Feet is a Grow Journey partner -  see my previous post.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Blizzard in the hood


Against doctor's orders I waded out this afternoon into the snow with the doctor Frenchman. For once, I caved and allowed my person to be encased in his hi-tech snowgear, which is lightweight, wind- and waterproof, instead of my usual cashmere layers and coat, in which it is hard to move. Glad I did. We walked into a blizzard!


The world was beautiful, and quite empty. Court Street, below, is a main thoroughfare and had been recently ploughed.


Heading down to the Gowanus Canal on 3rd Street the only vehicle moving belonged to the local FDNY's fire chief. A travel ban has been issued.


The movie magic of walking in the middle of the street.


Why I wanted to see the Gowanus, I am not sure. I just did. By now our faces were wet and the snow was flying straight at us.


We turned around and headed home, cameras tucked under our jackets in a vain effort to protect the lenses.


Up on 2nd Street the snow lay thick. By now about 16" had fallen.


Kanzan cherries bending low, below.


Smith Street, below, is typically jammed with traffic on a Saturday.


In the snow, everyone looks at everyone else, and smiles. That is not the way New Yorkers usually interact.


Final stretch, back on our block, below.


...and the reason the travel ban was issued. Whiteout:


30 minutes later we were home, and I was hustled into a hot shower, before downing a cup of thyme tea.

While we've had some snowy winters in the previous two seasons, this is the most accumulation I have seen since 2006 (26"), the year I started to take pictures, and pre-blog.

Tomorrow the sky will be blue, they say, and the world will be lovely. We are city dwellers, at home, with no need to be on the road, or at work,  or to bring the sheep in. So we stay indoors in comfort and look out at the changed world, and plan dinner (tartiflette, with truffle), and hope only that the Internet does not go down.

Because that would be a real catasrrophe.
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