Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Coming Back to Asparagus and Sugar Peas - but first - historic gardens

Dear Folks,

Returning from a week-long family visit, a WHOLE bunch of asparagus greeted us and what to do with the remaining usable sugar peas. More below - but first -

I hope you enjoy this artistic rendering of one of my Johnny Jump Up photos - why did I create this, you ask?  Because a note about Thomas Jefferson caught my eye and then the way my railroad train mind works it jumped to my "table books".

This is the original photo.

I think the Impressionism painting style has always intrigued me because of my love of flowers and the "muted" style of this art was what landscape and flowers looked to me with my "near-sighted" eyes when I did not have my glasses on. [A historic fact is Monet may have been near-sighted and his vision become more blurred later in life.]

. . .

The garden was a passion of famous people who influenced and stirred our imaginations and views of the world.

"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden." -- Thomas Jefferson (Birthday April 13th)

One of my favorite "Table of" cookbooks is the one of Thomas Jefferson's culinary curiosity.  It includes some history on his gardens, recipes and interest in kitchen "gadgets" to re-create dishes he enjoyed.

"Dining at Monticello " edited by Damo Lee Fowler

I have other "Table of" cookbooks featuring Monet, Toulouse Lautrec, Renoir and Van Gough.

"Monet's Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet

Monet's Table was my first "table of" book and I come back to it again and again.

More than just a cookbook (but it is that), it is also about Monet and his life preferences.  "...the kitchen-garden was a work of art, one of the things of which Monet was justifiably most proud."  "Monet's home breathed to the rhythm and pace of the ancient ritual of cultivating the soil."

Monet had a famously noted salad dressing - Imagine the size of a large serving spoon --

"...which he [Monet] would fill with freshly ground pepper and coarse salt and dip into olive oil, adding a drop or two of wine vinegar. .. then pour the contents of the spoon over the salad and toss it... inedible for anyone except Monet or Blanche...[Monet's step-daughter]"

One very good reason to start seasoning with herbs first before reaching for the salt!!  :-)


We are looking forward to continuing to harvest our asparagus through the end of April - 6 weeks in total for our mature beds.  When you first plant asparagus, you learn right away why I call it the "patience" plant - you need to wait 2 years to harvest for 1 week, next year 3 weeks, and by the 4-5th year you can harvest for 6 weeks then STOP however tempting it may be to let the plant grow to what I call feathers so it feeds back into the roots all summer and fall long to be cut down in December and get ready to grow again.

I wound up doing one of those "sheet pan dinners" roasting the asparagus and some Chinese Broccoli (forgot to take a picture) with boneless pork steak seasoned with my rosemary and bit of salt, pepper and avocado oil - delicious!

Sugar Peas - nearing the end of the season and what a wonderful season we have had.  Because I intensely sowed the seeds and over a couple of months, I had a ton of peas to harvest whenever I wanted and sometimes they got away from me while I was helping family.

Now to letting the remainder dry on the vine to collect for sowing this coming fall. 

Right after we got back and before I took the drying photo above, I harvested the remainder of the now plump pods and came up with a plan to use all of them.

First I made like a farm gal and shucked the peas, saving the pods.  I did a bit of research to confirm my plan, making a pea pod broth to capture the flavor to cook with.  I added thyme, a bit of one of my garlic leaves, some I'itoi onions and fresh celery - all from the garden (don't you just love "shopping from the garden"!).

I brought to a boil, covered and simmer for 30 minutes and strained into mason jar and took to the compost pile since there was no salt in it).  BTW those are the 24 ounce jars and I love them for when I am "trying" to make 2 servings of something.  By the time I add everything I want to whatever, I have more than a pint, so the jars are just perfect for my "one more thing" cooking :-)

I made the broth, then using the broth I made a "risotto" with Orza pasta in place of rice, the peas and served up with a bit of bacon and an avocado section - it was great.  I have more of the broth, which has a great mild flavor and almost sweet - perfect for cooking pastas.

Two last fun things in the garden.

Our bananas are coming along nicely, getting a bit bigger but not near ripening.  I am SO looking forward to real banana pudding and I may make a simple banana ice cream.  I have posted about this particular fruiting time.  These started in late November, the plant was hit hard by the freezes we had and then the flower, which had "stalled" began growing again.  Amazing!  BTW the picture background was the sun shining through and around it while I was taking the picture, so the lens was not directly aimed at the sun - effectively "whiting out" the background - kind of cool!

And the quail are back!  We love watching them.  They start coming back through now because our gardens offer a safe haven for nesting, although we seldom see where (and we have to discourage them from nesting in our dump trailer and it would break our hearts to find them at the dump - we use the Reservation dump as they compost it all).

Anyway - we should soon see "eggs with legs" - My Deane's description of the newly hatched babies. Nature decrees they need to be able to run shortly after hatching - and those LONG legs get them moving - and fast.

One last "garden" thing as I finish this blog Saturday morning (April 6th)  . . .

"Passing Shower" - New Meaning!

About 6:05 a.m. I heard pitter-patter on our metal patio awning - and it did not sound like the doves stomping around waiting for their morning seed.

Nope -- RAIN! - Not in the forecast - and lasted about 60 seconds - just enough to put some drops on the ground, tiny bit of runoff from the roof and the aroma of rain in the air. 

It is NOW bright sunshine!

I Love Arizona weather! -- Catherine

I will be posting the May planting tips next week.  In the meantime if you want my monthly planting at your fingertips, consider my calendar and book.

 Have a great day in the garden and kitchen.  And pay attention to the weather forecasts.  With the weather heating up this coming week, you may need to harden off new purchased plants before sticking them in the sunny ground (where they need to be for best growth and production).


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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