Tag Archives: Seagarden
Lavender and blackbird

Summer in the Seagarden

Posted 23 December 2012 | By | Categories: Flowers, Food, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Summer in the Seagarden

It’s a glorious summer in the Seagarden. The strawberries are in full swing; blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and NZ cranberries (Myrtus ugni) are ripening. The espaliered tree has revealed itself to be some sort of green apple, and both the sweetie and braeburn apple trees are full of fruit. Fig brown turkey fruited before there were many leaves, but they all disappeared. Now there are lots of leaves but no fruit. And the tamarillos that were planted in 2010 seem to have blazed through their life cycle already.  Jasmine’s grown in around the front and courtyard doors, filling the entrances with heavenly scent, just as I’d dreamed. A couple of days ago, we harvested masses of spring onions which ended up in a giant Korean pancake-inspired frittata.

With my focus on growing a baby and business, the garden’s been mostly left to grow its own way this season. Even though I haven’t been actively planting or managing, I’ve delighted in the symphony of birds, bees and butterflies it attracts while exploring what’s new and changing. (Thank you Marisa Schuler for helping maintain this little patch of paradise.)

jasmine greeting me at home

jasmine greeting me at home

Posted 14 December 2012 | By | Categories: Gardening, Seagarden | Comments Off on jasmine greeting me at home

jasmine greeting me at home

via Flickr http://flic.kr/p/dAKLG8

Seagarden Pummelvision

Seagarden Pummelvision

Posted 03 February 2011 | By | Categories: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Seagarden Pummelvision

Seagarden Pummelvision from emily davidow on Vimeo. A year of the Seagarden in two minutes of video.

The First Tamarillos

The First Tamarillos

Posted 23 December 2010 | By | Categories: Animals, Flowers, fungi, Gardening, Growing Food, Pest control, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on The First Tamarillos
tamarillo

Delighted to see the first tamarillos emerging like jewels from these fast-growing trees. The leaves have been attracting aphids, but they seem responsive to strong sprays of water shooting them off. I’m not sure the occasional chili pepper garlic spray did much more than the water on its own.

I’ve also harvested my first few potatoes out of the strawberry patch. The strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are all still coming through strong. The blueberries are almost ripe, and the myrtus ugni are starting to form visibly behind the flowers. Feijoas are also fattening up even while still in bloom.

The area by the front door has filled up with fragrant star jasmine, which is apparently a seductive scent for cats as well as humans. At least for the the one below, who’s been hanging out on the front step a lot lately. When I approach to say hi, the cat scats. Directly across in the fernery, the nikau palm’s looking healthy, as are the native punga tree ferns.

There are also some mysterious mushrooms in the lettuce. Does anyone recognize these fungi? I appreciate your help in comments!

Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

Posted 16 December 2010 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Flowers, Food, Gardening, Growing Food, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Growing Nutella and Candyfloss

welcome the new class of exotics This week, I am so excited to welcome an infusion of exotic plants (all from Subtropica): inga bean, chocolate gardenia, vanilla passionfruit, Chinese ginger, galangal and a dwarf date palm. I feel a bit like Willy Wonka composing a fantasy garden of candyfloss (inga bean) and nutella mangosteens (chocolate gardenia). Let’s see how they grow!

Ginger Chinese (Zingiber officinale var. sinensis) This is very similar to the ginger you buy in the shops. It has pungent yellow roots and is fairly easily grown outdoors, in a semi shaded position. Non invasive. A great plant for the vege garden.

Ginger Galangal – Red (Alpinia galanga) Also known as Thai ginger, this pretty plant has aromatic roots that are used extensively in Thai cooking. It will grow well outdoors in NZ in a frost-free spot with adequate moisture and semi-shade. The flowers have a red tinge, hence the name.

Inga Bean (Inga Edulis) A highly ornamental tree with huge bean pods up to 15 cm, containing candyfloss-like edible pulp. Leguminous tree. Ripens June-July. Will bear three years from seed. Beautiful white pohutukawa like flowers in January and February.

Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebellenii) This very attractive small palm has graceful, arching,deep green fronds. In its native Laos it produces small black edible fruits that resemble dates. It may be harder to get it to fruit here, but it will be an attractive addition to any subtropical garden.

Chocolate Gardenia (Atractocarpus fitzalani) Also known as yellow mangosteen, this Australian native has small, highly scented flowers followed by medium-sized sweet orange fruit, that I am told tastes like Nutella. It comes from the more tropical north, but will grow in a warm sheltered situation here. If the conditions are not warm enough, it won’t fruit but will still produce flowers. Not frost tolerant.

Passionfruit Vanilla (Passiflora antioquiensis) A really special passionfruit, the ripe fruit are long with a yellow skin when ripe and a very sweet, rich aromatic pulp. My favourite. The vines have narrow dark green leaves and a reddish stem. Non-invasive. The flowers are being beautiful large tropical looking scarlet flowers growing to 10-12 cm across and with purple blue centres. Flowers appear Spring and Autumn.

Cavolo Nero Kale Chips

Cavolo Nero Kale Chips

Posted 24 August 2010 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Gardening, Make Things, Vegetables | Comments

My fabulous Aunt Jan introduced me to the addictively delicious treat known as kale chips Stateside in June, making them from a bunch of mature cavolo nero, and serving them up elegantly in a tall glass a la Dan Barber. Now that I’m back in a winter (almost spring!) garden filled with greens, I’m making them almost every other day.

I have been experimenting with all different types of kale, cabbage and greens, and they’re almost all good. Young cavolo nero, also known as lacinato kale, Tuscan kale, and dinosaur kale, is my favorite to use, but curly kale, red Russian kale, squire kale and even savoy cabbage leaves work well too. Mustard greens, not so much. But since they’re taking over the garden, we’ll figure out some great things to make with them by next week. (Your favorite mustard green recipe suggestions are very welcome!)

cavolonerointhegarden-1.jpg

Ingredients:
1 bunch cavolo nero, other kale and/or savoy cabbage leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

cavolonerocabbage-1.jpg

Directions:

  • Wash the leaves and dry them well. To tear or not to tear? I prefer to leave the stems intact — with younger kale, the stems aren’t thick or tough, and they still get crispy and delicious.
  • Toss with olive oil and sea salt.
  • Preheat an oven to 180° C (350° F).
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (optional, but makes for joyfully easy cleanup) and arrange the leaves in a single layer. You may need two baking sheets, depending on leaf size and number.
  • Bake until the edges are crisp but not burned, approximately 10 minutes.

Delicious variations:

  • toss in some apple cider vinegar with the olive oil and salt.
  • add cumin
  • add cayenne pepper
  • add curry powder
  • add finely grated parmesan (or other) cheese

kaleandcabbagechips.jpg

Enjoy them in a glass, on a plate, crumbled on some popcorn, in your mouth…

The Tamarillo Show

The Tamarillo Show

Posted 12 May 2010 | By | Categories: Food, Plants, Seagarden | Comments

Tamarillos now taller than me The tamarillo plants in the garden are now taller than me. These fine specimens of the Teds Red and Tango varieties haven’t fruited yet, but tamarillo fruits have started arriving in the stores, and I tasted my first of the season yesterday. When I cut it in half, I realized why they attract me so visually: the seed pattern looks like the stylized Chinese shou () motif (pronounced like “show”), a symbol for longevity.
Shou slices of Tamarillos from tamarillo.com

Here are some examples of the shou motif on cufflinks from Shanghai Tang:
Shanghai Tang shou cufflinksShanghai Tang sterling silver shou cufflinks


Is tamarillo a nutritional powerhouse that can deliver the longevity it symbolizes? A full report from Crop and Food Research on the nutritional composition and benefits of New Zealand tamarillos shows they’re definitely nutritious and worth adding to your diet. Here’s an executive summary:

  • Tamarillos are low in carbohydrate and the carbohydrate present is mainly in the form of fibre,
  • are high in potassium but extremely low in sodium, which is a desirable balance for a healthy diet,
  • contain other trace elements important for health, in particular copper and manganese, and
  • are a very good source of vitamin C, and make a significant contribution to the daily intake of vitamins A (equivalents from selected carotenoids), B6 and E.
  • Red tamarillos had higher antioxidant activity than gold but both had higher antioxidant activity than many common foods.

Tamarillo Teds Red Aside from being delicious fresh raw and scooped out with a spoon (or squirted into your mouth), tamarillos are also incorporated into some wonderful recipes and can go either savory or sweet. My favorite so far is a chocolate tamarillo tart from Floriditas, also makers of the tamarillo and vanilla tea cake.

However, I’ve not yet seen a dish that shows off tamarillo’s shou. Maybe just sliced into a salad? I bet it would be popular at the New Zealand Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo. Or am I just seeing things?

Fractalicious Romanesco

Fractalicious Romanesco

Posted 08 May 2010 | By | Categories: Food, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden, Vegetables | Comments Off on Fractalicious Romanesco
fractalicious romanesco

Fancy fractal food: Broccoli Romanesco, Cauliflower Romanesco, or just Romanesco

Today, with great excitement, I harvested my first Romanesco and made a self-similar salad from it by breaking it into Romanesco-shaped pieces and tossing with a little olive oil and kelp granules. Perhaps the most delightfully geeky of all vegetables, the Romanesco is a nearly exact self-similar fractal form that illustrates a Fibonacci sequence. I have seen it in the marketplace as Cauliflower Romanesco and Broccoli Romanesco, and the French call it chou Romanesco, which translates to Cabbage Romanesco, so we’ll just note that it’s a Brassica and refer to it as Romanesco.

This electric chartreuse coloured vegetable offers a more subtle flavour than both cauliflower and broccoli, with a distinctively nutty note. I find it delicious raw, but it can be steamed or prepared in any way that you would with broccoli and cauliflower. And even though the organic ones often seem expensive at the market, I now know they are well worth it.

The Learning Curve

Romanescos at Yunos Farm stand at Abingdon Square Greenmarket, NYC I first became enchanted by Romanesco at the Yunos Farm stand at the Abingdon Square greenmarket in NYC (right), and noted if I ever grew my own vegetables, I would definitely grow this one. What I didn’t know is how much time, energy and water goes into each one. Because it’s always sold with the leaves stripped away, I assumed that the part we buy was the plant. Turns out it’s merely the flower of the plant. A giant plant. (This goes for broccoli and cauliflower too.) I thought I could tuck a few seedlings into the front of the berry patch, but they took over the space entirely for the season (image below).

giant Romanesco plant

The other growing surprise was that amidst an entire orchard, the Brassicas were voted most desirable plant by leaf-munchers and sap-suckers alike. I imagined the insects would go for dessert first, but they chose Romanesco, broccoli and brussels sprouts over berries and grape vines all day long. The most damaging was the hungry green caterpillar of the white cabbage butterfly. Eventually, I caved in and sprayed a trial of the bacteria Bacillus thuringensis Bt, which worked. Many of the plants bounced back entirely and produced beautiful veggies, while a few others never quite got their health back and suffered aphid infestation after the caterpillar menace subsided.

With broccoli, removing the central head stimulates side shoots for later picking. Does Romanesco work the same way? Let me know in comments if you do, and I’ll update when I find out here.

Update: According to Grow Better Veggies, “once the main head is cut, that’s it. You cannot rely on lateral growth for additional minor heads as the season goes on, which is a nice feature of regular broccoli.”

Companion Flower Salad

Flower salad: calendula, hyssop, nasturtium and borage Not only is Romanesco a flower that makes a great companion plant for other edibles in your garden (since everything wants to eat it), but many of the companion plants recommended for growing alongside it (and the rest of the Brassica family) are edible flowers too: (shown at left, clockwise from top right corner) Nasturtium, Hyssop “sweet marigold,” Borage, and Calendula. I don’t know if they distracted a single predator, but they definitely attracted bees, our friends in need, and kept any uninvited plants from crashing the party. They also add colour, beauty and diversity.

How do they taste? I found the Nasturtium too peppery for my palate, but it’s been brilliant in the garden as the earliest to bloom with bright orange blossoms. Borage, the last flower to arrive on the scene after a long period of leaf growth, features delicate blue flowers atop fuzzy stems that taste of cucumber. Hyssop ‘sweet marigold’ has an anise or licorice flavour. Calendula is slightly tangy and bitter and more appreciated for its use in topical tinctures and lotions than cuisine, but its leaves are lovely tossed into salads.

Seeds of Enlightenment

Seeds of Enlightenment

Posted 25 April 2010 | By | Categories: Plants, Seagarden, Spirit | Comments

seeds of enlightenment One morning, the reclining Buddha’s ear appeared encrusted with tiny jade stones. I thought of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok’s Grand Palace and the Jade Buddha Temple of Shanghai. Perhaps the stone was just a veneer, cracking open to reveal its true nature, like the clay-covered gold Buddha of Wat Trimitir.

But my mind was also full of hungry caterpillars, leaf hoppers and aphids, and I assumed they were propagating animals rather than plants. What’s about to be born here?

The pods dried, revealing themselves to be seeds rather than eggs. I only needed to look up to see what they came from… the exquisite Libertia grandiflora, aka Tukauki or New Zealand Iris. I had admired its flowers in bloom and appreciate the lush tufts of strappy green leaves year round but hardly noticed the distinctive seed pods at all. Happy to be awakened to the beauty of this native New Zealand plant in all its forms.

Saturday Seagarden Spoils

Saturday Seagarden Spoils

Posted 17 April 2010 | By | Categories: Art, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden, Vegetables | Comments

Garden Harvest 17.4.2010: 4 large cucumbers and the last of the cucumber plants; 1 glorious white icicle radish; 2 dwarf beans or french beans; 8 large, 11 small and 17 green potatoes; 1 curvy carrot; 13 ripe strawberries; marigolds (to make space for new plantings); and 6 baby beets. Planted: spinach, purple kohlrabi, cauliflower snowball, cauliflower green macerata, cabbage mix, misome and mustard greens.

Opines on Lupines

Posted 23 January 2010 | By | Categories: Plants, Seagarden | Comments

This beautiful bush sprouted up almost overnight in the front natives garden. At first I thought it was gorse due to the yellow flowers, copious seed pods, and speed of conquest. But gorse is a spiky thorny thing, where as this had smooth leaves. Or, as they say at the California Invasive Plant Council, “sparsely pubescent (appearing glabrous), palmately compound leaves.”

The key to identification was the flowers, which reminded me of the lupines that took my breath away riding from Husavik to Akureyri in Iceland. All of a sudden the barren-moon landscape filled up with clean rows of purple blossoms as far as the eye could see. From there, it didn’t take long to figure out it was Yellow Bush Lupine (Lupinus arboreus), designated a New Zealand national plant pest.

The Icelandic Forest Service introduced Lupinus nootkatensis from Alaska in 1945 to prevent soil erosion in barren areas and to nourish the soil by fixing nitrogen from the air. In New Zealand, Lupinus arboreus was planted along coastal sand dune areas in order to provide shelter and nutritional support for Pinus radiata trees, protecting farms from sand encroachment. Both have proven to thrive a bit too well though, and are now considered invasive.

“In New Zealand weeds are almost always plant species that humans have introduced to the country,” according to the Department of Conservation. Many of the plants considered weeds here are ones I tended with love in my New York garden. They include Buddleia davidii, Lantana camara and some species of Passionflower.

It’s not just plants introduced from abroad however, “even a native species can be considered to be a weed in a particular site if it affects an important natural value on that site.” Here are some helpful guides to identifying uninvited plants that are taking over the garden party:

It turns out Lupines are as nutritious and problematic for people as they are for the landscape. Italians eat the seeds as lupini beans in brine, and Egyptians make them into snacks known as Termis. (If you’re in the USA and come across Aisha’s Termis in the grocery store, give it a go — it’s delicious. Intriguingly made in Massachusetts from lupine beans imported from Australia.) I love the springy skin that pops open to a tender inner bean in your mouth.

The problem is the alkaloids in the beans make them bitter and can be poisonous if not prepared properly. Mark Bittman details the days — or longer — it takes to get ready to eat. Barbara at DISH’N’THAT suggests at least two weeks. I love slow food and I love cooking, but “soak, rinse, repeat: Forever.” is not a recipe for me.

So goodbye to you Lu, you pretty, poisonous, pesty plant. I’ll smile and be happy to see you out and about, but I don’t see a future for us growing together.

Lotus Lessons

Posted 08 January 2010 | By | Categories: Plants, Seagarden, Spirit | Comments Off on Lotus Lessons

Lotus by David Midgley, 2008, This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License

When collating my dream plants for Seagarden, the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) was high on my list. With roots in the mud, stems growing up through muddy water, and exquisite fragrant blossoms emerging high above the water untouched, the lotus exemplifies purity and freedom. Heliotropic and self-fertilizing, the lotus is a sacred symbol to Hindus, treasured as one of the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism, and also revered by the ancient Egyptians, for whom it symbolized the sun, creation and rebirth. And its seeds make a delicious sweet soup I came to love while living in Taiwan, as well as a delectable paste used in many Chinese desserts.

The lotus has inspired significant scientific discovery as well as spiritual. Wilhelm Barthlott studied the Lotus Effect, resolving in an electron microscope the nanoroughness on the leaf surface that repels everything that tries to settle on it, including water, honey, glue, dirt and even fungal spores, leaving it always dry and clean. When a drop of water rolls around it, it picks up the debris and cleans the leaf surface. Today, dozens of self-cleaning products such as paint, glass, roofing tiles, and textiles incorporate the lotus effect. This same quality is now also being used to make solar cells that absorb more energy from the sun, increasing efficiency by up to 25%.

One of the most stunning lotus ponds I’ve encountered is at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, where the images above were taken. The one just above is by Tim Entwistle, Executive Director of the Royal Botanic Trust, who blogs at Talking Plants. The top one is by David Midgley, cc 2008, who also blogs about plants at kipili.com.

As the lotus symbolizes awakening to reality, it was a bit dispiriting to face the reality that lotus plants would be most unhappy in my Wellington water garden. For though they remain untouched by most things, they cannot abide wind and and prefer warm humid temperatures. But I was heartened to discover that water lilies (Nymphaeaceae) might do well.

Water Lily A. SiebertWater Lily George H. Pringwater lily St. Louis Gold

There are two main types of water lilies, hardy and tropical, and between them over 60 varieties. I saw a yellow “Nymphaea Ray Davies,” that I could imagine belting out “Thank you for the days,” but the healthiest plants on offer seemed to be the tropical lilies. So I brought home one each of A. Siebert (pink), Mrs. Geo H. Pring (white) and St Louis Gold (yellow) from Glenbogal, whose site has good information on keeping them happy (as does Nymphaea Fidelity).

  • In this video, Janine Benyus, co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute, talks about Lotusan, self-cleaning facade paint, as an example of the how designers can use biomimicry.
  • Sarah Fain has Starfish Envy is the compelling blog of a lovely lotus chronicling her adventures in self-fertilization.