Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What to do with a mess of peppers...

From Julie Sahni's magnificent Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking...
HYDERABAD HOT GREEN CHILI PEPPERS BRAISED IN ALMOND-CREAM SAUCE (Mirch ka Salan) + For some Indians flavoring food with hot chilies is not enough. They want to eat the chilies in their own right. So here is a recipe from Hyderabad of chili peppers braised just as you would any vegetable, in an almond-cream sauce. In the recipe I recommend Anaheim chilies, as I find the hot green chilies too strong. But for those with a fiery palate, poblano peppers probably would be more suitable here. FOR 6—8 PERSONS

  • 7 tablespoons light vegetable oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 3—inch stick cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon shredded fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼—½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup coconut milk, plain yogurt, light cream, or a combination of all these
  • 1 pound mildly hot fresh green chilies (such as Anaheim, preferably small ones), slit
  • 2 medium-size tomatoes, cut into 1-inch-thick wedges
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
  • Heavy cream or milk

1. Measure out the spices and place them right next to the stove in separate piles. Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy skillet until hot and add the onion. Over medium-high heat fry the onion until light brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning (about 10 minutes).

2. Add the cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and almonds, and continue frying until the seasonings look a little shriveled and the almonds begin to darken (3—4 minutes). Add the coriander, cumin, and cayenne, and let sizzle for 1 5 seconds; then add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the mixture looks like a thick pulp and the oil begins to separate from the gravy. Add the ½ cup water and cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until the water has blended in and the sauce develops a nice thick consistency. Turn off the heat. With a spatula transfer all the sauce to a howl.

3. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to the same pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chili peppers. Sauté, turning them, for 3 to 5 minutes or until they are well coated with oil, look glazed, and begin to steam. Add the tomatoes, increase the heat to high, and continue cooking, turning and tossing, for an additional 1 or 2 minutes.

4. Add the reserved sauce and mix well. Lower heat and cook, cove red, until the peppers look wilted (about 10 minutes). Do not overcook or they will become too limp and soft. Check and stir a few times to make sure the sauce is not sticking or burning. Stir in the coriander and salt. Turn off heat. Serve warm. If desired, fold in a few tablespoons of cream or milk to mellow and velvetize the sauce.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

I planted a bunch of bronze fennel last fall, aiming to attract Black Swallowtail caterpillars. They decidedly prefer my garden's Florence Fennel, which is about to bloom. I wonder if I'll be able to harvest fennel seeds? That's one of my favorite spices...

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Sunday, May 27, 2007


(tomatoes on the trellis -- matt's wild on the left, tiffany in the middle, better boy in the background

(tiffany, with thirty-eight walnut-sized or larger tomatoes and another dozen or so smaller. i've already harvested no fewer than a dozen. it's a VFNT hybrid, so no disease problems. pretty good flavor, great texture, good keeping. nice to have smaller tomatoes (3-4 oz). they look exactly like those "tomatoes on the vine" from the grocery store, growing in clusters of 4-5 fruits. from TGS.)

better boy. i've harvested several tomatoes that weighed in at more than a pound. delish. but in the end, the tiffany produces more tomatoes and the size is better suited for eating.

another shot of tiffany, from the other side, so you can see how many tomatoes are on one vine. the whole bush must weigh 30#, and i've had to add a bunch of strings to keep it up. they didn't break during the heavy winds this week.

i don't know if you can see this: but in the middle of the photo, a sun gold, growing in a large pot, that has hit the 9 foot limit of the conduit i'm using as a pole. i've decided to pull all the leaves from the bottom 1/3 of the plant and make it into a tree. my garden is a mess.

'yellow currant' (TGS). not a very good pic, but what a tomato! it's already at 10', much better behaved than matt's (it grows upright and the stems are self-supporting with a very little bit of help), more prolific than sungold, and the tomatoes are pretty good. if you look carefully, you can see the scads of tomatoes that grow in clusters of about 20 1/2" tomatoes.

anyway -- the in-ground tomatoes are all planted using the posthole method (thanks, delta charlie!), with one slight improvement: i dig out all the crappy sand in a narrow (maybe 18" diameter) hole, enough to fill a 5-gallon bucket. the sand gets dumped in a low spot in my yard. i use three or four paper grocery sacks, stacked together to form a very thick, stiff bag, to line the hole: i fold the top edge down a few times, enough to form an even stiffer cuff around the top of the bag, so the bag remains open and is about 2' tall. then, i stuff the bag into the hole i've dug, leaving the cuff a bit above the surface. i fill the hole with straight-up compost from my kitchen-scrap heap. i usually add a handful of water-retention crystals (i nursery friend gave me a ton of them for free), and then i test the ph and adjust with sulfur. (for whatever reason, my compost is a bit sweeter than tomatoes like it.) (oh, and without complicating things too much here, the tiffany was not planted using the paper bag method, but instead using two large nursery pots with their bottoms cut out and then tied together with twine through the drainage holes, forming a cylinder about 2' long. it was way too much work, very awkward to install, and led me to the paperbag method.)

the cuff lets me do two things -- i fill it with mulch and it allows me to water more easily (just fill the cuff with water and let it seep in). it also keeps the bad soil out.

anyway, the paper bag just makes the posthole method a bit easier, since you don't have to worry about the sand collapsing back into the hole. it also keeps the nematodes out, though for how long, i don't know. every week or so, i add a couple handfuls of compost to the top of the bag to fertilize the tomatoes and keep the soil level constant.

i haven't dug one of the tomatoes out yet, but presumably the roots of the tomatoes will eventually make it through the paper bag. the plants seem pretty low in their watering needs.

oh, the trellises i've used are made from leftover chainlink fence posts. it was a lot of work, but is VERY sturdy (i did a pullup on it, and i weigh about 200 pounds!). the lighter one in the front of my bed is made from conduit -- $15 total cost in parts and it took me less than 15 minutes to install, since the conduit is stiff and narrow enough to push by hand through the sand to a depth of five feet. the elbows were more expensive than the 10' conduit lengths.

ok, i've goofed off enough here. now's time to goof off in the garden!
an update: i take back what i said about the paper-bag method's superiority over the nursery pots. when i cleaned up the garden at the end of the season, the bags had completely disintegrated, and much of the organic material in the hole had dissolved into the surrounding sands. but the nursery pots were still full of humus. so, though they are more difficult to install, i will definitely convert all my tomato holes into nursery-pot holes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Garden update...

An ornamental banana coming into bloom...

A pomegranate in bloom...

'Little Fingers' from TSG. Cool, no?

The pickleworms have met their match...

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Another from-the-garden recipe. I'm totally overwhelmed by the number of cherry & currant tomatoes that are ripening now.

My wife is a first-rate baker. She uses the levain method: no yeast, just naturally-occurring bacilli and yeasts. Florida's got some of those. She bakes at least three times a week -- huge, two-pound loaves. We eat it with every meal. Her bread is dense, pocketed with fissures and holes, wheaty, slightly acidic without being sour. The crust is thick, crispy, and golden. We've lived for long periods in Europe, in the heartland of good bread, and hers would stand toe-to-toe with any bread I've ever eaten.

Here's what I did with it...

This will serve two for a main dish or four as a salad. The point is to create a gustatory party of colors, textures, flavors and smells.
  • a few handfuls of cherry/currant tomatoes, or a couple of large tomatoes. I like to use a mix of cherries (Sun Gold, Yellow Currant, Matt's Wild). If you're using small tomatoes, just squeeze them by the handful -- careful of the mess. Or dice the large tomatoes medium.
  • lots of scallions, preferably red ones (for the color). tops and bottoms chopped roughly
  • tomato-friendly herbs: mint, basil, oregano and parsley. A few handfuls of each, though let the parsley predominate.
  • a few cucumbers or sweet peppers, chopped roughly (a little something crunchy)
  • 1/2 c. flavorful olive oil (bring out the good stuff)
  • 3-4 tbsp. of red wine vinegar
  • salt (I like flake sea salt) and pepper (coarsely ground)
  • 1 pound peasant bread, ideally a little stale, torn into 1 inch chunks
Mix the tomatoes, scallions, herbs, cukes, peppers, oil & vinegar in a large salad bowl. Let them sit and marry for a while. About fifteen minutes before you're ready to eat, chuck the bread into the bowl and toss it all very well. Serve, with copious amounts of cheap but excellent wine.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

And the winner is...

I wanted to quickly note the State of Tomatoes in my garden. On January 6, I planted three full-sized tomatoes:
-Tiffany (a VNFT hybrid from TGS)
-Better Boy (a VFN hybrid)
-Matina (from TGS)

Tiffany produced early (end of April) and prolifically. Smallish (4 oz), perfectly round, smooth (no shoulders). OK flavor, very good texture. Fair number of seeds. They look just like those "tomatoes on the vine" you get from the supermarket. Somewhat subjectively, I'd say these hang around on the vine for a long time while ripe without suffering for the delay. Good yield, and it's nice to have smallish tomatoes.

Matina has been very disappointing. Nice tomatoes, but they actually ripened later than Tiffany (I bought them because they're supposed to be very early), and the yield has been low.

Better Boy produced a large crop, a week or so later than Tiffany. Fewer in number than Tiffany, though the yield seems roughly the same in weight. Beautiful, flavorful, dense flesh, low in seeds. I weighed one today at exactly 16 oz. It deserves all the praise it gets. I'd like to sniff and say "well, it doesn't have the flavor of a Brandywine..." or some such, but let's face it: Perfectly ripe, homegrown tomatoes all taste really really good. Subtle differences in flavor shouldn't overshadow more important criteria. It makes sense to me to choose varietals that are prolific and disease resistant. Beyond that lies only snobbery parading as discernment.

Monday, May 21, 2007


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Deland, Florida (32724) Conditions & Forecast : Weather Underground

Deland, Florida (32724) Conditions & Forecast : Weather Underground: "Statement as of 5:05 PM EDT on May 20, 2007

... Record low temperature equaled at Daytona Beach...

The low temperature this morning at Daytona Beach of 54 degrees...
ties the record low for this date previously set in 1984."

Jene's Tropical Fruit

Jene's Tropical Fruit: "Jene’s Tropicals offers a diverse collection of Florida tropical plants and other tropical fruit trees from around the world. All of these Florida tropical plants are extremely healthy and ready to be shipped to many places within the USA. Jene’s Tropicals take great pleasure in sharing amazing Florida tropical plants and tropical fruit trees with you!"

Blackberries | Blueberries | Mulberries | Raspberries |

Sunday, May 20, 2007

really really amazing weather

All winter I complained about how screwy the weather was (recall the tornadoes that affected the area twice this winter). Well, today's weather was simply unreal: High 70s, with a dewpoint in the 40s:Another backdoor front passed through last night (I think), pulling down nice air. This kind of weather typifies our February and March weather. By this time of the year, we're usually sweating it out in the upper 80s with dewpoints of 74. Not quite unbearable, but not comfortable, either. We hardly used the AC since, well, December. It's dry and the sun is hot and the day is long. With an early morning, daily watering, my plants are going wild.

Myrciaria cauliflora, Jaboticaba fruit tree

Myrciaria cauliflora, Jaboticaba fruit tree: "MYRCIARIA CAULIFLORA
Jaboticaba Fruit Tree

FAMILY: Myrtaceae
ORIGIN: Brazil
MIN. TEMP.: 35°
FLOWER: white flowers that grow on the trunk
COMMENTS: delicious edible fruit"

Friday, May 18, 2007

On the plus side of things...

A little yin, a little yang. My gardenias, in all their glory...

Organic control of pickleworms...


Damn them. Oh, I am SO tempted to get out that bag of Sevin my mom gave me "just in case"

... See how they like the taste of Carbaryl! (pant pant pant)

I'm a little worked up. Witness the ravages:
(Egg cluster, entry hole, damage, caught in the act...)

We eat a LOT of cucumbers. I had such a great run this year, though, that even with full-time, all-out cuke eating, I had enough to make several batches of pickles. I even had the fungal issues completely under control through regular copper spraying, hygienic culture, and trellising:
(A single plant, trellised over four strings. It reached the top of my 6' trellis, and was beginning to spread over the wires that run between my two trellises.)

I almost ripped them out of the ground, since everything that I've read about these buggers indicates that, short of smothering them in insecticide, there was nothing to be done. Surrender. All. Hope.

But, poking around on the Web, I found this...
J. O. G. de Lima1 & E. A. da Silva1, 1Laboratório de Proteção de Plantas, Univ. Estadual do Norte Fluminense, Av. Alberto Lamego 2000, 28.015-620 - Campos dos Goytacazes, RJ, Brazil. E-mail joscar@uenf.br.
In all regions of Brazil, the melonworm, Diaphania hyalinata, and the picleworm, D.
nitidalis, destroy several cucurbit fruits, especially cucumber, which if unprotected is
seriously damaged. Besides the frequent use of insecticides, no other single method is effective for protecting cucurbit vegetables. In order to find an alternative to insecticides, an experiment was carried out in the field to test the efficacy of paper bags for protecting the cucumber fruits against the pickleworm penetration. Bagging was accomplished no more than 24 h after the flower pollination (beginning of the flower wilting process).
In the four treatments used, the percentages of bored cucumber fruits at the first harvest (04.20.98) were: 1. Conventional application of insecticides (weekly application of deltamethrin at 5 g a. i./ha): 40.0 %; 2. Bagging the fruit and no insecticide application: 27.1 %; 3. Weekly application of deltamethrin (5 g a. i./ha) before and after bagging of the fruits: 30.0 %; and 4. Control (No insecticide application and exposed fruits): 52.4 %. Because of the poor quality of the paper bags, some of the bags split open at the first harvest and this number increasead at the second harvest (04.28.98). Due to these problems, the experiment was discontinued. However, the preliminary results were promising in that bagging reduced the need for application of insecticides. In addition, the color and size of the fruit were not altered by bagging. There is great potential for bagging of cucumber, especially using a new type of microperforated plastic bag, which is currently being tested.
Notice that the bagging is 50% more effective (40%/27%) than the conventional insecticide.

Guess what I'll be doing tonight?

Drought outlook

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Damn them. They have arrived. The end is near.

We had a good run... Good bye, cucurbits!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I made a dishy gazpacho tonight from the garden. Is there a better way to simultaneously use up overripe tomatoes and celebrate summer?
  • 3# of ripe tomatoes
  • 1# of cucumbers
  • 1/2# green pepper (any sort, I used a couple of banana peppers)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 5-6 summer onions (large scallions, or use 1/2 of a small red onion)
  • 1 c. good olive oil (not too expensive, not too cheap)
  • a few pieces of stale hearty country loaf, torn into pieces
  • as much sherry vinegar as your care to eat
  • a lot of salt, I like flake sea salt

for garnish:
chopped hard-boiled egg, diced green pepper, basil (purple offers a striking contrast), chopped scallion

Chuck it all in a blender, in batches if you have to (mix it all together in a large pitcher when you're done blending).

Serve with garnishes and some toasted country bread.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Carrot Sweet Treat Hybrid

Recommended from the FLA forum, GardenWeb.
Customer Favorite
Carrot Sweet Treat Hybrid
Superb carrot flavor and delicious crunch.
Easy to grow and full of vitamins. 1,500 seeds per packet; sows a 40' row; 1 oz., about 300'. Ready to harvest in about 70 days. Superb carrot flavor and delicious crunch these 5" sugary spikes are one of the best salad carrots we've ever pulled from the ground.

but who buys drinks?

Tantric secrets of the invertebrate world...

lovebug - Plecia nearctica Hardy
Copulatory behavior begins with the male darting and grasping a female that is flying through the swarm. The pair falls to the ground where they couple. Initially the male is positioned on the back of the female and both sexes face the same direction. After coupling, the male turns 180° and faces the opposite direction. Successful genitalic engagement takes from 1.5 to 10 min.
From now on, I'll reference "genitalic engagement" in all such discussions with my wife...

Monday, May 14, 2007


It rained last night and today, a total of about two inches, perhaps a bit more. This evening we enjoyed the cool, drier air (73 degrees and 61 degrees for the dew point -- which translates into very comfy conditions). This "backdoor front" (backdoor because it comes from the north) is rare this time of the year. Our May winds are usually from the south-east, not the north-east:

Last night's rainfall was more characteristic of a winter storm than a summer rain, which is usually caused by instability brought on by the sea breeze interacting with the much hotter air over the peninsula. We're in the midst here in Florida of an epic drought and hellfire, so the rain is welcome, whatever its provenance.

It was actually too cool to sit on the patio with drinks. That never happens mid-May. My foxgloves and poppies are living large.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


In my ever useful Parks dome, my female child and I planted...
  • Rows 10 + 9 A, B cucuzzi seeds from Bill (it's really too late, but why not try if I have a couple spots free?)
  • Rows 8 + 9 Ethiopian Kale from ECHO (s'posed to be heat & humidity tolerant)
  • Row 7 more New Zealand Spinach. I real bugger to start.
  • Row 6 Papaloqeulite (a Mexican herb that Bill gave me). The seeds remind me of those from zinnias.
  • Row 5 Roselle

Update: The roselle was up the next day...

Local food culture...

I'm reading Bill McKibben's new book, Deep Economy. I haven't been terribly impressed so far -- Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry are far more eloquent and sophisticated in their analysis and criticisms of modern farming-food culture, but McKibben understands better the unsustainability of the whole of modern American economy.

Berry says somewhere that it's a sign of how far removed we've become from the most primal experiences of life when children know where babies come from, but not potatoes.

"Eating is an agricultural act."

I spend a fair amount of time in the garden with my children, talking about how things grow and reproduce and die. And trying to share with them the wonder and awe I have for all things living, even the writhing mass of maggots in my compost bucket. They're usually out there with me planting seeds or helping harvest cukes and tomatoes. My daughter loves to pick snapdragons and make them ROAR!

From this morning's Times:

Local Food 101, With a School as His Lab


TALL, bald and of robust appetite, the chef Timothy Cipriano is casting an appreciative eye at the young free-range chickens clucking in their moveable, open-air run outside the Agriscience and Technology Center at Bloomfield High School. “By fall, I can give you three dozen eggs a week,” predicts Joseph Rodrigues, the agriscience teacher who oversees greenhouses, raised-bed gardens and a set of big, burbling aquaculture tanks.

“Fantastic. We’ll do frittatas,” Mr. Cipriano murmurs.

The two men are amiable and enthusiastic co-conspirators. Mr. Cipriano, the food service director for the Bloomfield school district, is also a committed activist for the Connecticut Farm-to-School program, which advocates serving students fresh, locally grown and sustainable food. He is clearly delighted by Mr. Rodrigues’s next promise: “We’ll be raising tilapia. It’s a good, mild fish the kids like. I’m hoping to give you a couple of decent harvests.”

Having cajoled a few students out of study hall, Mr. Rodrigues has set them to transplanting heirloom tomato seedlings in the greenhouse. He walks between potting benches reciting tomato varieties: “Moskovich. First Ladies. Juliets. The Great White ... .” The crops also include snap peas, leeks, broccoli rabe, carrots, herbs, lettuce, arugula, okra and squash. Crews of volunteer students will tend the beds over the summer, with early harvest going to a local food bank.

Students also test recipes, from watermelon gazpacho to Mexican pizza, and Mr. Cipriano has gathered the favorites in a self-published compendium intended for the delectation of “Not Your Average Lunch Lady.” His most popular dish is Squapple Crisp, a toothsome bake of winter squash, apples, cinnamon and brown sugar topped with crushed cornflakes. Has he had some losers?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

more quick garden pics


Cucino cucumber. It mounted the 7' pole and is now sprawling across some wire that I stretched between my two vertical supports.

Little Finger Eggplant.

great barred owl

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tomatoes, quail grass, foxglove

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Queensland Lettuce

From ECHO:
Lettuce, Queensland [1441]

Lactuca sativa.
This leaf lettuce is an ECHO favorite. From Australia, it grows extremely well under hot, humid conditions and is slow to bolt. Leaves are numerous and tasty with a yellowish hue. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More garden notes...

  • I picked another two pounds of cucumbers today, and a few Tiffany tomatoes. Last night I harvested a half-pound of chard. More figs on the fig tree -- the ones that set last month are slowly ripening.
  • I borrowed our botanist's pH meter and tested the beds. The blueberries are all 5.5 to 5.8 within about a two-foot radius. I need to lower that pH to 5.3 or a bit lower. I added sulfur about two months ago. It takes a few months to lower the pH, but I went ahead and added a bit more sulfur today. I don't see any signs of iron chlorosis, and they are growing well, so I'm not too worried. My other beds are all 7.0, perfectly neutral. I need to lower that a bit, so I put about a cup per 50-square feet of wettable sulfur down on my flower beds today.
  • Candytuft ( Iberis umbellata Dwarf Fairyland Mixed from T-M) has done really well for me this year. Mostly the lilac seems to thrive, but the white is doing OK, too. They they flop more than I'd like, but I'll have to add this to my late-spring and early-summer palette.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Let's see now... what's new in the garden...

Garden notes to myself... Early May:
  • I planted okra (Annie Oakley from Pinetree) this weekend (5/6)
  • The New Zealand Spinach is finally up. That's nearly a month to germinate! (Turns out they were a weed... My attempts to sow in situ have all failed. I've gotten a few of these to germinate in small pots, but it takes several weeks. Better be worth all this trouble...)
  • Two words: Chard ROCKS. Plant more of it next year -- I planted it out into the garden at the beginning of December, it's still producing heavily. I don't remember when I started to harvest, but the small 1'x3' square has given me at least three months of picking, probably more. A beautiful plant! Why would anyone grow spinach?
  • I started training the yardlong bean up a twine. Vigorous bugger.
  • Eggplants are really beautiful plants!
  • Tiffany is the winner for full-sized tomatoes. Earlier than Better Boy, much more vigorous than Matina. A lot of them are reddening now; great texture, good taste, though nothing spectacular. These need to ripen fully on the vine to be sweet.
  • Yellow Currant tomato is a monster. It's reached seven feet in a matter of weeks and is branching heavily. The flavor is basic cherry tomato, no better or worse.
  • Peppers are all producing nicely.
  • Chervil goes to seed in early May.I've harvested cilantro (coriander) seeds and dill seeds this week. No reason to mourn their going to seed. I'm going to start some seeds of paploquelite soon as a replacement for cilantro.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sweet potatoes, runner beans, tomatoes...

The layout of my cold-season strawberry bed: A rough circle that gets about 8 hours a day of hot sun. I dug the strawberries into the bed, and laid down another thick layer of oak leaves and grass clippings.

My son & I started the rattlesnake beans a couple of weeks ago : I'm running wire from stakes along the perimeter to a 10' high conduit pole in the center of the bed. In theory, they'll scramble up the wires, but not shade out the white sweet potatoes (planted on Sunday) that are planted in the center of the bed or the Sungold tomato that's training up the pole. The way the sun tracks, the left (north) side of the bed should still get tons of sun, even with the beans growing up the right (south) side. The bed's very heavily mulched with hay, leaves and pinestraw. I have some pentas and milkweed mixed in there, too, since this used to be my butterfly bed.

Intensive gardening!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A hike through Lake Woodrufff

The family went for a hike this morning through Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, a series of lakes (Woodruff is the largest at 2200 acres), impoundments, and channels that are part of the St Johns River system.

It was hot, but a nice breeze and a fairly low dew point made for a pretty comfortable three-mile hike... even with my three-year-old daughter perched on my shoulders the whole way. When at the park last week, I saw a a few dozen Marsh Rabbits nibbling the tender grasses along the impoundments. I wanted to show the kids who, growing up in Central Florida, haven't seen many wild rabbits. Alas, we made it to the Refuge too late, and the bunnies were hidden in the brush waiting out the hottest part of the day. We did see many alligators, turtles, egrets, a small kite, hawks, coots, gallinules. We heard a Great Barred Owl calling from the pine forests that dot the perimeter of the public area.

Swamp Rosemallow (Hibiscus grandiflorus).
Nuttall's Thistle (Cirsium nuttallii). This specimen was mixed in with some Purple Thistle (Cirsium horridulum) that had already gone to seed. I think I'm right on the identification: the Nuttall's Thistle is a lot paler and more delicate, and a bit taller, than the more common Purple.
I have no idea. Anyone?
Purple Passionflower, or the (aptly named) Maypop. I find these to be so otherworldly in their beauty. It's strange to come across them, growing untended in the wild.
A Gulf fritillary fresh from its cocoon. Tasting Spanish Needles (Bidens alba). Bidens is probably the most common wildflower here in Central Florida. It's indestructible, and seems to thrive in swales and cracks in the concrete. If you walk through a field with them, you'll find your socks and cuffs spiked with their sharp thistles.
Sawtooth Blackberry (Rubus argutus) blooms.
Rubus berries. These lined the banks of the channels cut through Woodruff. Considering how bone-dry it is, the berries were fairly abundant and the ripe ones were sweet enough. Surprised that there were any left with all the crows, sparrows, etc. flitting about.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day Veg

I don't know what varietal these cukes are -- I bought them at Lowes. That's one plant that has been trellised onto four strings to keep them off the ground and less prone to fungal problems. I've harvest dozens of cukes so far. I ended up making some tasty quick pickles with the excess. If you look carefully, you can see the next couple of dozen cukes ripening on the vine.

These are Tiffany tomatoes from TGS. Very vigorous, early to set fruit and redden, nice yield so far with probably two dozen medium-sized fruit now ripening. They are VFNT, so if they taste decent, I'll definitely raise them again next year.

Yellow Banana Peppers. Good yield, tasty.

Quail Grass, an Amaranth (like Celosia) that's supposed to be very mild and low in oxalic acid and nitrates, making them tastier and easier to digest than must tropical greens. I tried some raw a few days ago and found it to taste pretty much exactly like spinach, only less oxalic acid (the unpleasant bitterness/grittiness that characterizes spinach past its prime) and a bit nuttier. Tasty.

I had some trouble with germination and slugs, but two plants survived and that's all that can likely fit in the four-square feet I've given them. It gets five feet tall and blooms in the fall.
Pretty plant, no?