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gardening 101

My thyme going nuts.

Welp: it’s finally starting to feel a bit more seasonal. Saturday was the first in ages that hadn’t gone above 70 degrees as the high, which is weird considering we were dancing close to 90 earlier in the week. (I know this personally for a fact because a post-work jaunt across the harbor to Whole Foods left me a pretty drenched mess, even with a boat ride to cut into the walk itself.) When we lived in Stamford this would have me feeling both wistful and worried over how I could possibly my herbs before the winter temperatures took them out; at least here, with my indoor windowsill garden, I don’t have to fret over that.

I’ve been meaning to offer an update of sorts to my gardening exploits, and now seems as good a time as any to do so. My plants from last year are all still going strong. We were worried that something was wrong with the basil, but it turned out it was likely only suffering from a few nights of having the window open when it was still cool at night. The most exciting development among those plants is that my Meyer tree has not only blossomed, but is gestating a lemon as we speak! Apparently they can take up to 6 months to mature and turn yellow, and based on my calculations that might be happening sometime within the next few weeks. In the meantime a new branch of the tree has sprouted up and seems to grow like a weed, and I’m hopeful that a few more buds might be forming, but to be perfectly honest I am simply glad that the tree seems to be doing well and hasn’t died yet, you know? Read More

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Fried Padrón peppers, i.e. the goal dish of the pepper experiment.

Fried Padrón peppers, i.e. the goal dish of the pepper experiment.

When we first moved to New York, Michael mentioned the possibility of taking some planters and setting them up in an empty air-conditioning caddy as a way to grow some plants given how much sun that part of the building got. I never took him up on his offer, and in retrospect it was probably for the best: not only was I woefully inexperienced in growing things and keeping them alive (oh, the failed experiment of my New Haven garden still stings) but given that we were on the first floor, I feel like the temptation for some college kid to knock them off would have been too great and one day I would wake up and see terracotta and dirt all over the sidewalk.

Since our relocation back to Connecticut, I’ve embraced the container garden because our balcony is surprisingly well-suited for one: despite not getting as much sun as I figured would be necessary, the herbs I’ve grown over the last three years have thrived fairly well, and last year’s garden was in particular quite successful. I had a pot of oregano that yielded several batches of oregano pesto in the fall, and a bountiful amount of jalapeño and serrano peppers to throw into various recipes, and lots and lots of sage leaves to fry up in butter and serve with cutlets. The miserable winter killed off everything, sadly, as we don’t have a good indoor place to keep things, so once again I started afresh at my favorite herb nursery. Read More

Sage seedling

Sage seedling

Despite growing up in a household boasting flowerbeds all over the property and a sizable vegetable garden, my gardening skills are sadly, wanting.  My first attempt at growing herbs several summers ago left me with a somewhat viable rosemary plant (a fact I am attributing to the plant’s inherent hardiness rather than my green thumb) and dead lavendar and sage plants.  Another try was slightly more successful my first summer in New Haven–we enjoyed fresh oregano and thyme for most of the summer before a drought killed them–but due to the flurry of activity last summer leading up to two weddings (including our own), growing our own herbs slide preciputously down the priority list.  With Romeo almost always having what we need (and usually a good price for the quality), we normally never had a problem going through a batch of parsley during a week’s time, and having fresh tarragon and sage for a weekend dinner would just signal a need to get creative with the remaining amounts for weekday meals.

Then we went to Italy and had access to a true bounty of herbs to use as we needed–and we realized that we only needed a sprig or two because the quality was just that much greater.  For much of the winter and early spring the thoughts of sprouting a more modest version were on my mind constantly, especially as we’ve taken to make brown butter sage sauces to go with our fresh pastas so frequently.  Michael was initially hesitant but I managed to convince him that it was a good idea and not too complicated, and Saturday we became the proud owners of this sizable sage plant and a smaller French tarragon plant (it seems to have thinner leaves than the tarragon we usually find in the market).  A modest $27 investment in a trowel, potting soil and some terracotta pots later, and we are in business.  To add to the fun, I picked up some rosemary and lavender seeds to try sprouting, though I’m not as confident in my ability to germinate actual seedlings from, you know, seeds.  But it’s worth a try, right?