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Green Your Holidays with Fabric Wrapping Paper

Green Your Holidays with Fabric Wrapping Paper

The holidays are always an exciting time around here, but I always hated the waste of the season—especially wrapping paper and bows. Now, each year we have our gifts under the tree without any wrapping paper, tape, or plastic ribbon: we use fabric! When my […]

Why Grow Dent Corn?

Why Grow Dent Corn?

Reviewing your seed catalogs in the (finally!) rainy autumn, you see the beautiful colors that dent corn can come in–blue, red, even rainbow “Gem”–and you don’t know why you’d want to grow corn you can’t eat fresh. What’s the point? Why colorful cornbread, of course! […]

Predatory Plants, Half Moon Bay, California

Predatory Plants, Half Moon Bay, California

Amongst the drool-inducing nurseries along Route 92 in Half Moon Bay is a sign that seems almost out-of-place between the more trendy, Sunset-style stores. Succulents, Native Plants, and…Carnivorous Plants? If you venture inside, you will find no Little Shop of Horrors, but a sparse space that proffers 3 distinct products: Venus Fly Traps, Pitcher Plants, and Sundews. I brought my kids with me to see the undoubtedly “cool” plants, and to pick up a sundew to help us tackle our intermittent fruit fly issues in our kitchen at home. My 7-year-old was a bit underwhelmed, probably expecting giant man-eating vines straight out of Hogwarts, but while these plants are meat-eaters, most are very small, and even downright cute.
A collection of adorable Sundews
As I examined the array of sundews, not knowing how to pick one (since they all looked exactly the same), an employee walked over and gave me friendly advice on care. Sundews are native to swampy locales, so I need to keep water in a tray that the plant’s pot sits in. Also, while the plant will catch its own snacks on its sticky-top tendrils, I could supplement it with some live insects I happen to catch (meaning I am now a supervillain to the ant scouts that find their way onto my countertop). It’s like having a plant for a pet! It was almost strange to find a store with such a small array of products, but it makes sense for Carnivorous Plants. They focus on their specific products, and so are the best source of both the plants themselves and knowledge on how to keep them happy and healthy.
My sundew, a close up of its deadly (to insects) leaves

If you go…

Predatory Plants (The sign says Carnivorous Plants) 12511 San Mateo Rd Half Moon Bay, CA 94019 Hours: Fri-Sun, 10am – 5pm Predatory Plants Website Parking is free and plentiful, but be aware that making a left turn into the parking lot, or making ANY turn out of it can be tricky and requires patience. There is a lot of traffic on Fridays and the weekend on Route 92, and that’s the only times the store is open.
Cuore di Bue Tomatoes

Cuore di Bue Tomatoes

One of my new-to-me plant varieties this year has been the Cuore di Bue Tomato, a paste/sauce variety. The insides are dense, with oxheart-style lobes, and have very few seeds. As with any plant variety you attempt to grow, the fruit is a result of […]

Raising Swallowtail Butterflies

Raising Swallowtail Butterflies

My kids, especially my seven-year-old son, asks me if we can get a pet all the time. The requested animals range from fish, to hamsters (“they poop every 5 minutes!” he says, like it’s a positive attribute), to a new dog (since ours died in […]

When life gives you blackberries…

When life gives you blackberries…

…make a Charlotte Russe!*

Part of my yard has been going wild since my kids were born, and there is a thicket of Himalayan blackberry coming into season. I’m never content to make jam or jelly, and you can only have blackberry pancakes 3 or 4 days a week. I always want to do something spectacular with the berries, and this recipe definitely shows off their unique sweetness and tartness in a fabulous way. I may also have been watching a lot of the Great British Baking Show…

This is not your typical dessert. It involves sponge cake, mousse, whipped cream, lady fingers, and preserves. It has many steps. You will need to plan ahead for each step. And you will impress everyone with both the looks and taste of the finished product.

The Recipe

I used this recipe, with just a few changes. I made my own lady fingers (recipe here), and, of course, used fresh blackberries instead of frozen. Because fresh berries are more intact then frozen ones, you do need to smash them a bit to extract juice from them. I used a cocktail muddler.

Pressing the cooked berries to extract the juice

You use your extracted juice in the whipped cream mouse, and the juice turns the mousse a vibrant pink color. With the army of lady fingers on the outside, and that unexpected rosy interior, this is definitely a conversation starter of a dessert. Expect questions, admiration, and requests for some of those berries!

So bright, so delicious!

*The dessert, not the store at the mall.

Harvesting Cauliflower: Not for the Squeamish

Harvesting Cauliflower: Not for the Squeamish

Organic Gardening is incredibly rewarding, but there are those moments when you question the amount of work you put into it. Harvesting heads of cauliflower is one such moment. When to Harvest Cauliflower, when ready to harvest, are fully sized at about 6 to 8 […]

Save Your Baby Plants from Slugs and Snails

Save Your Baby Plants from Slugs and Snails

Slugs (and Snails) eat baby plants. They love tender infant beans and cucumbers and totally ruin all that hard work you did weeding and composting and planting. So many plants are just easier to direct-sow into the ground or pot, and starting beans inside seems so […]

The Prettiest Weeds Money Can Buy

The Prettiest Weeds Money Can Buy

You’d think the folks that sell seeds would know better than to collect and package weed seeds for sale, but they clearly don’t. There are plants that, in the Bay Area, at least, are meddlesome weeds, and yet companies sell them as ornamental flowers and vegetables. While these plants might be an annual plant in many parts of the country, they are downright dangerous to introduce to your garden: you will regret it. …That being said, these same plants are freaking gorgeous, and if you have to find you have to put up with them, just be glad they aren’t Wild Fennel*.

Rat Tail Radish

AKA: Aerial Radish, Spicy Bean Source: Botanical Interests
Rat Tail Radish
Left: The patch of Radish in my yard. Right: the variety of flower coloration found there, in detail.
This is my favorite Bay Area weed, for two reasons:
  1. It grows beautiful bunches of flowers in so many colorways, even in the same area. Just small patch of them in my yard can sport yellow, bright pink, white-and-pink, white, yellow-and-pink (my fave!), and purple.
  2. They are easy to pull up when you don’t want them any more–the roots are short and come out of the ground very easily.
You’d think with a name like Wild Radish that the roots would be edible bulbs, but in these, it’s the seed pods that you can eat. If you’ve ever seen a broccoli or kale plant go to seed, you’ll recognize the pointy green pods. I don’t love radish in general, so as a food, I’m not thrilled. As long as these keep popping up in my garden, I’ll just keep taking pictures.

Miner’s Lettuce

AKA: Winter Purslane Sources: Amazon, Territorial Seed
Detail of the flower stalks of tender Miner’s Lettuce, thriving in a shady part of my yard.
These cute little lilypads, with their tiny cascade of white flowers, pop up in the wet winter of the Bay Area, and die away in the heat of summer. This means they really don’t crowd out summer vegetables, and I’ve even heard of them being used as a ground cover to form a mat of green to keep other winter weeds from popping up. As their name suggests, these plants were eaten by the gold miners in the Bay Area, and are actually quite nutritious, if a little bland. I recommend using their leaves in salads with a tasty dressing, and not as a spinach substitute in anything cooked (as I had seen suggested online), as the taste is too mild and the texture too tough for cooking.

California Poppy

Source: Amazon
Some of the color variations of poppies in my yard, some with red striations from the base and others with yellow edging each petal.
The orange poppy is the California State Flower, so I’m not surprised it’s easy to find sources for the seeds. They are beautiful, and, like the Rat Tail Radished and Miner’s Lettuce, thrive only in the wet winter, fading away in summer. Their roots are also shallow, so the plants come up whole when you need to remove them. There are many colors and varieties of poppies available for purchase. If you already have native poppies in your area, there are a few things you need to know before you plant those other varieties.
  1. Wild poppies have evolved to thrive where they grow. Adding new varieties that will cross-pollinate with the native, orange poppies can weaken their next generation. You could end up with no poppies.
  2. Wild poppies’ brilliant orange color is dominant, so even those blue, white, and red beauties you plant this year will be orange poppies next year.
Even in the wild population, there is variation in the poppies, and I would recommend collecting seeds yourself instead of buying them to ensure healthy plants and the colors you desire. In my own yard, in just one area along the edge of my patio, I can find full-orange, yellow-orange, and (my favorite) fiery, red-orange wild poppies. *They do actually sell Wild Fennel Seeds, because people are stupid.
My Garden Plan for 2018

My Garden Plan for 2018

After much deliberation, I finalized my garden plan for this year. I used the map I created using Google Maps (see how to do this yourself here), organized my seed collection, and purchased the new seeds I need. The Plants I’ll be growing many of […]