Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Parsley Peculiarity May 18, 2010

Filed under: bugs,herbs — greenwalks @ 8:23 pm
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Please pardon my absence, May is my crazy month. Three family birthdays, Mother’s Day, the school auction, and a few more biggies tossed in there for good measure, all in the first 15 days of the month alone! I am still recovering.

Of course, all of this means that I usually start the gardening season way behind. I finally got around to weeding and readying the small veggie patches and while I was furiously ripping stuff out, I accidentally knocked the central stem out of my biggest overwintered parsley plant. So, I brought it in for a lazy-gal’s bouquet.

Parsley "bouquet"

It was in the house for a day or so before I noticed this:

Spittlebug foam on parsley

Spittlebug! Ew. Well, not ew exactly, since I don’t think I’ve ever seen what’s inside all that foam. There are quite a few of these guys out there at the moment – they mostly seem to hang out on the lavender stems, but apparently parsley is good too.

Spittlebugs lay their eggs in the fall, the eggs overwinter on stems and leaves, then the nymphs hatch out in the spring and produce their characteristic protective foam as they feed on plant stems. In the home garden, they are apparently more unsightly than truly problematic, but they can cause serious damage to agricultural crops if infestation is heavy. If you don’t like yours, just give them a blast with the hose and it should at least knock the foam off, if not the bugs. And when they are done eating and transform into leafhopper-looking bugs, the foam dries up and we can forget about them again until next spring.

What is the weirdest critter that ever came into your house with something from the garden?


Daily Freshness January 18, 2009

Filed under: edibles — greenwalks @ 12:06 am
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Back in the early 1990s, I worked in a Northern California bookstore and spent all of my meager wages on, well, books. I hadn’t yet rediscovered the wonders of libraries (free books! free music! free movies!?!?!) and thought I needed to own everything I read.

One book that made a big impression on me at that time, although if I pulled it off the shelf now I’m not sure I’d still love it, was “Mating” by Norman Rush. I read it just before it won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1991 and garnered rave reviews (but then suffered a bit of a backlash from some readers who considered it over-long and pompously written.)

The novel contains a passage that has really stuck with me in the years since I read it. I’ll never find it to quote it accurately, as the book is 496 pages long, but the essence is this – one of the characters states that he needs to eat something fresh every single day. Even if it’s the smallest herb or tiny addition to an otherwise-dried/canned/reheated dish (a true challenge considering the character is living in the Kalahari desert at the time of his statement!), he just needs to have that one thing, every day.

For some reason this really resonated with me. I will freely admit to using canned beans, frozen blueberries, and a host of other pre-packaged foodstuffs in the interest of quick preparation and out-of-season variety, and I will never be one for the Raw Food bandwagon. But having something fresh, no matter how small, always makes me feel better, healthier, more lively. It’s one of the reasons that, despite being a big lazybones and not having a huge amount of free time, I have at least a small veggie/herb/edible flower patch every year.

I had thought, with our recent spate of awful weather, that there would be absolutely nothing left in the garden that could be eaten fresh as of mid-January. But to my great surprise and delight, the curly parsley in the parking strip patch had managed to keep a few stems around, and I was able to pick a good-sized one tonight to chop up for a quick red pasta sauce.


Something fresh, every day. It’s a lot easier to make that a reality when you can just walk out to the garden and snip something you grew! I’m just glad I’m not gardening in the Kalahari, I don’t think I would be up to the challenge.


Rare Treat September 26, 2008

In the fall, the end of sweet corn season overlaps ever so briefly with the appearance of wild, wonderful chanterelle mushrooms (Cantharellus cibarius). The mushrooms, with their incredible golden-orange color, springy texture and subtly earthy taste, to me are always worth a once-yearly splurge. I get just enough to make a side dish and figure my kid won’t eat more than one or two bites, if that, so it doesn’t end up costing too much.

Not being the most creative of cooks, I usually use the same recipe each year, from Alice Waters’ “Chez Pannisse Vegetables.” I probably don’t need to explain who Alice Waters is or how she has transformed the dialog in this country about where we get our food and how it’s produced. But I will say that some of her other cookbooks have seemed daunting to me, with multiple hard-to-find ingredients and long preparation times. This one just addresses vegetables and has mostly fairly simple recipes, and a few per veggie to choose from (it would be a great one to pick up for those of you with CSA boxes that come with challenging contents like sorrel, amaranth greens, parsnips, etc). Often the recipes are just suggestions of ingredients and general cooking advice, with no measurements per se or exact cooking times. I’m not very used to this kind of method but at least in the mushrooms’ case, it seems to work out pretty well.

So, with full credit to Ms. Waters, here is the recipe for

Corn and Summer Chanterelles

Clean and slice some chanterelles and saute in a little butter. Season with salt and pepper. When they have begun to brown and are nearly done, add some chopped garlic and parsley, and continue cooking gently, another minute or two. Add fresh sweet corn kernels cut from the cob and a splash of water. Cook until the corn is just done, taste for seasoning, and add a nut of butter off the heat.

That’s it!

Oh, the parking strip connection is that I harvested the parsley from our street garden.

Here are the mushrooms, all chopped up and ready to go (next to one of my favorite recent purchases, a mushroom-shaped mushroom brush!):

Chanterelles and mushroom brush

This one’s size was really impressive:

Big chanterelle

Mmmm, nothing like the smell of melting butter to make you feel warm and snug on a cool fall day:

Mmmm, butter

Everything’s in the pot and cooking up nicely:

Almost done!

I didn’t get a shot of it all finished and composed on the plates along with the fusilli con pesto e patate (using a many-hued assortment of farmers’ market potatoes my daughter picked out last week), because by that time we were hungry and my family was tired of me taking pictures of our food.

For more information about chanterelles, click here.


Scarborough Fair August 24, 2008

Looking for some great herbs to plant in your parking strip? Sing along with me now…

Italian Parsley


Silver Sage




Lemon Thyme

and Thyme.

All are easy-care, and except for parsley they are evergreen perennials at least in my zone (8, Seattle). Culinary thyme comes in many varieties, as does culinary sage. They all taste delicious and look great to boot, even poking through the snow!

(And no, Simon and Garfunkel did NOT write that song… it’s an old English folk song about a medieval market town and a man’s impossible demands for his former love.)