August 26, 2009

Tomatoes and Peppers and Cukes, Oh My!

In my opinion there is nothing quite as satisfying as harvesting the fruits of our labors. It gives me a feeling of confidence, that if I had to I could provide my family with sustenance in hard times. Many years ago my young children helped me with the garden and I used this quality time to teach them that food doesn't just grow on the shelf in the grocery store. That people had to work hard to bring forth such goodness and we should be thankful for their efforts.

People ask me why I bother growing vegetables and fruits that I could easily pick up at Harry's or even the local grocery store. First and foremost, I don't consider this work. It's a hobby and a passion. I know it sounds hokey, but watching a seed turn into a plant that gives forth fruit - well that's just amazing to me. I like knowing how my produce was grown and that they have no pesticides or other chemicals in them. I like picking tomatoes just before we eat them or munching on a crunchy kosher dill that I made in my kitchen.

Life can be overwhelming in many ways. Working in the garden slows time down a bit. The simple tasks of weeding, pruning and picking produce seem to make my life a little less insane. I won't lie - I am thrilled by the look on someone's face when I serve them a tomato basil salad with fresh mozzarella and they swoon with delight. Sharing our bounty with friends, neighbors and even local restaurants makes me feel like I'm accomplishing some of my goals to make this a better world. Lofty, I know, but in my small way I'm making a difference in someone's life. My version of paying it forward.

Our summer garden is winding down with September right around the corner, but here in the south we can still grow things like peas, lettuce and spinach before the first freeze. Then I can spend the cold winter months planning my next garden, pouring through seed catalogs and searching the web for that perfect heirloom tomato I can grow next year. It's the little things in life, my friends.

August 24, 2009

Figs! Glorious Figs!

It's fig harvest time at Bidwell Botanicals. We love figs but the crop this year is insane! We leave the very top ones for the birds (also because we can't reach them). What to do with all of these luscious fruits? Here are a few ideas:
  • For an easy and delicious appetizer stuff ripe figs with goat cheese, wrap in prosciutto and grill or broil until warmed through. Drizzle with honey and serve warm. In a word: amazing!
  • Stuff chicken breasts with cheese, fresh spinach and chopped figs. Bake until chicken is done and serve with couscous or wild rice.
  • Eat them on ice cream, sliced into salads, or fresh off the tree.
  • Make preserves, chutneys or freeze figs in syrup (
  • Share them with friends, neighbors or local restaurants.
Check out the CDC for more information on figs:

August 12, 2009

Dog Days

It's mid-August in the south and it is hot. How hot, you ask? Well it's so hot that the tar on the street is squishy. It's so humid that my carefully straightened hair now looks like I have a perm. Now that's hot! What can you do during these Dog Days of summer to stay relatively cool? I've got a few suggestions:
  • If you have a pool or access to one by all means use it! There's nothing like floating in cool water to help bring down the temperature. Add a cold glass of tea or lemonade to that and you have Nirvana.
  • Keep a fine mist spray bottle of water in the fridge. Add some lavender or cucumber hydrosol and use it to spritz the back of your neck, face, and anywhere else you require instant refreshment.
  • Drink plenty of water. There's nothing like dehydration to make you feel sluggish.
  • Speaking of dogs, DO NOT leave your pup in your car with the windows up when it's this hot! Remember to have plenty of fresh water for them to drink, especially if they stay outside during the day. They feel the heat too!
  • Dress in cool, comfortable clothing. Light colors not only look cooler they also help to reflect light and don't hold the heat like darker colors. Natural cottons, bamboo or hemp fibers are best.
Hang in there! The summer heat is nearly over for most of us. Personally I am looking forward to the first brisk morning of Autumn. Then I can start complaining about the cold.