Last Sunday, I planted garlic and many of my winter crops in my vegetable garden. By Wednesday, I already had several types of sprouts.
And by today, there were many more.
Baby vegetables are almost as cute to me as baby animals. I've been dragging friends through the garden, pointing out the beet and lettuce sprouts, crooning, my voice high and juvenile, "Look at how cuuuuuuuuuuute they are."
I'll be rotating winter crops in and out of various parts of the garden as they mature; as well, I'm starting some vegetables at different times to allow for a steady stream of produce, rather than an overwhelming glut of green followed by a dry spell. Because they must be kept evenly damp for up to (and sometimes beyond) two weeks to even get them to sprout, a very difficult task here in Southern California, carrot family members are notoriously difficult to start: I've held off planting my carrot family seeds (parsnips included) since I wanted to try an experiment that Pat Welsh, author of Southern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide, recommends to start these persnickity seeds.
She suggests mixing enough seeds for the anticipated row with a handful of damp peat moss on a paper plate.
She then advises to stick the whole plate in a self-zipping plastic bag, freeze the package for twenty-four hours, then place the plate on a warm electronic device to provide electronic heat. So now, in my house, the DVD player and Tivo are serving double duty as seed incubators.
According to Welsh, the seeds should sprout within three days, and I should then sprinkle them directly where I'd like them to grow. I'll let my readers know if it works for me.
On another note, I've collected the seed that I had air dried from my gorgeous display of Nigella damascena that I grew for color and interest in my summer garden.
Nigella damascena, also known as Love-in-a-Mist and Devil-in-a-Bush (interpret those names however you wish--I know my mind has gone all sorts of places with them), is a fascinating plant. The flowers are framed by soft, spiny fronds and appear in shades of blue, pink, and white.
After blooming, nearly every flower develops a ballooning seed capsule that stands erect above the bush.
Some people cut the seed capsules and dry them for flower arrangements.
Nigella damascena is a close relative of Nigella sativa, the spice commonly found in Eastern European and Indian dishes, known by many names--black cumin, kalonji, black onion, etc. Some people, when unable to find kalonji seeds, have substituted Nigella damascena seeds. Although I don't intend to use the seeds I have for cooking, of course I had to give them a taste . They taste fruity, sort of a grape meets oregano flavor, quite pleasant.
After collecting, I have found that I have quite a few more seeds than I need for next year. If you find this plant as fascinating as I do, and you'd like me to send you 15-20 seeds to plant in the spring, send me an email with your address, and I'll share my bounty with you.
And, tonight, I have one more quick little secret to share. As my extra time has clearly been spent with my hands in the dirt, I haven't been applying my creativity quite as frequently to my kitchen. In short, I've been the barest-of-bare-bones cook. However, sometimes simplicity yields its own rewards. Craving something for dessert after a yummy (but quick) pasta meal, I scavenged my kitchen for something that would fit the bill. This is what I came up with, a dessert so easy, quick, and delicious that ECG and I scarfed it up before I could get a good picture.
Gingered Cream with Pears
This is hardly a recipe, just guidelines for a fall treat, sweet and juicy with pears and warmed with the bite of ginger.
You will need:
Enough heavy whipping cream (organic, of course!) to have a scant 1/4 cup whipped cream for each serving
1 juicy-ripe Bartlett pear for each pair of people you are serving
A chunk or two of candied ginger for each person you are serving, finely minced
To make the dessert:
Cut each pear in half and scoop out the seeds. Slice thinly and arrange each half in a fan-fashion on a dessert plate.
Whip the cream until it makes soft peaks. Stir in most of the minced candied ginger. Scoop dollops of whipped cream on the pears on each plate. Sprinkle the remaining candied ginger over all.
Easy. Good. Now go lick some beaters.