It’s been awhile since y’all have seen the tomatoes and let me tell you, Doyle is growing larger (more slowly nowadays) and while still green, I’m holding out hope that he gets much bigger and turns red! The four other toms are coming along also, having grown to the size of cherry tomatoes and while I was out trellising the plants some more and doing some general maintenance on the plants, I discovered a handful more tomatoes!! It would seem that I am rather successful at growing tomatoes! *Knock on wood* We wouldn’t want to jinx it now!!
As you may very well remember, the lady that owns the nursery that we stopped off at a few months ago was explaining that it was still too cold in May for tomatoes to really flourish and do their best growing outside in an unprotected environment, so that the crops would be harvested later in the year, so I shouldn’t be too put off by the fact that none of my toms are turning red just yet. That just means plenty of time to grow more tomatoes over the coming weeks! I’m so very excited! I am going to make a crazy batch of salsa … maybe can some of it – depending on how many tomatoes actually grow, and maybe even a few plates of fried green tomatoes! I would be so thrilled!
I don’t know where to find green tomatoes around here – not that they are easy to come by in the States either, but there is farm store not far from here where a local farmer supposedly sells produce and things, including chickens and other livestock, straight off his farm to you. Talk about farm to table! I’m going to go out there in the next couple weeks and see if he is growing tomatoes so that I may be able to buy some of the vine ripe green ones… you never know! Maybe I can find something really nice to make with them and can that too!
The pepper plants are …. growing. The cayenne pepper plant is not flowering or anything but the caterpillars or something else is eating small holes in the leaves, so I’m not holding out much hope for that plant. But the Habanero pepper plant has white flowers all over it and while there are no actual peppers right now, there might be some tiny ones that grow into nice, big peppers here in a short while!
The aubergine or eggplant plant is dead. Something ate it and it was becoming overwatered or something because the leaves quickly turned brown, then holy and brown, then furled and dead. Oh well. It was just an experiment after all! But the butternut squash plant, after I cut away the two biggest leaves, which coincidentally, had the most holes in them, started to grow an abundance of new leaves that are growing larger, greener and taller each day! We might actually wind up with a couple butternut squash to eat too! Or just a “teacup” butternut squash, in which case it might be enough for one serving of butternut squash risotto… you never know!
Do you remember the windowsill herb planter? Days after the last garden update was posted, a strange, white mold began to grow along the top of the soil and slowly killed the herbs. The rosemary never grew from seed though, just a couple tiny green sprouts and that’s it. Everything else had started to grow though, the cilantro even grew from tall green shoots to taking the shape of cilantro leaves! And died shortly thereafter.
RIP cilantro plant, hereafter named “Corey.”
RIP dill plant, hereafter named “Dill-icious.”
RIP chive plant, hereafter named “Chivey.”
RIP rosemary plant, hereafter named “Rosy.”
Moving on, one of the cool things about my favorite grocery store in England is that they sell potted herbs that you can keep on your windowsill to grow and use – so while I was there picking up ingredients for this weeks French Fridays with Dorie, I bought a cilantro plant or coriander, as its known as here, a Greek Basil plant (which has a rich, intense smell), and chives. I have plans to pick up either a thyme or rosemary plant at the market the next time I’m there, to transplant to my windowsill herb grower.
Now they look rather impressive since they were grown to full adult size, but after one day in my care, even after being watered, they began to droop from thirst. I have watered them today and we will see if they improve over the next few days, I’m also moving them to the staircase window because it get full sun for longer during the day than the kitchen window gets. I’m making an effort! It would save pennies a year that I would spend on packets of fresh herbs, which is convenient also, but I would be very proud to be able to keep them alive and get them to grow back after I pick off what I need when I’m cooking. Stay tuned to see if they make it!
Do you remember those bandana plants I bought? I had left them out by the tomatoes to flourish a bit more before I transplanted them into the planter by the front door, and after one day of over 80 degree weather, they too died. Ugh. Well, next year, we will try again!
To add insult to injury, after re-planting those new herbs into the windowsill planter and taking care of all the dead plants around the house, I managed to start a fire in the kitchen. Yup. FIRE. It was nearing the end of the evening and we were making a little snack after dinner and had a kettle on for tea and the next thing you know, it started to smell a little smokey. I had dropped some sugar-water for the candied citrus directly on the burners a bit earlier, so I didn’t think anything of it, but then the smell got stronger and looking over my shoulder, I saw the tea towel we keep by the stove top up in flames! I quickly grabbed it, doused it in water and threw it away. It was like moving in slow motion. Patella wasn’t even worried about it, just watching me run around the kitchen quickly and trying to figure out what I was doing. Mei was not bothered either, but one day she will, when she can understand what happened.
So after the fire was put out, the tea made, snack prepared and Patella had gone out to do her thing, we all gathered in the living room to wind down. Patella and Mei passed out pretty quickly and then I got a chance to sit down with “Artisan Breads Every Day” by Peter Reinhart. I have been wanting to bake my own bread for a while now and slowly gathering the tools I would need and ingredients, such as bread flour and yeast, etc. so I was ready to plan out how many days I would need, read all the advice and instruction on kneading, rising, all that stuff and getting a feel for what I needed to make happen with every step. Then it hit me! I have recently joined a group online that is cooking through Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table” cookbook and I thought, why not cook through this one too? According to the introduction, if you cook through this book, each recipe will progress to teaching you a new method and technique needed to successfully bake different breads so that you can master the basics with the hopes of not needing to be recipe dependent to create great breads.
There is also something so fascinating and charming about making four simple, everyday ingredients like flour, sugar, yeast, and wheat to become different things and taste differently. Artisan breads, in recent years has taken the world by storm. Everyone wants to eat them, buy them and in some cases – make them! Bread is a completely sensual experience. You see it, smell it, taste it, touch it and hear the grigne - or the crunchy, crackling of artisan bread when it is depressed. Bread is magical. Transformative. In fact, bread can be found at any number of historical gatherings, political discussions, meetings, religious ceremonies, etc. It is one of the things that is universal among all cultures. Each culture even has certain breads for different celebrations such as Mardi Gras’ King Cake and Chollah bread. Bread has played an important role in shaping cultures and traditions around the world – who wouldn’t be fascinated with it? So, we are going to bake, recipe by recipe, until we can be freed of the recipe dependence! Also, it gives me an excuse to work with many different bread flours that are available – as many bread bakers and bread enthusiasts consider Europe to be a mecca for artisan breads.
There are many sultry, delicious things stewing in the kitchen and I can’t wait to try them all!