Tag Archives: gardening

Sugar Snap Peas: Five Italian and Spanish Style Recipes You’ll Love

30 Jun

It is the season for sugar snap peas (Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon), and we have had a wonderful harvest of sugar snaps in our yard, and we expect more from Restoration Farm, our CSA.

Almost too ready for picking

Almost too ready for picking

So today I made a special sweet pea dish — Pasta with Chorizo and Peas – for my seven-year-old swee’pea who is in charge of peas at home, from planting to watering to harvesting (he gets assistance in stringing the poles as our peas need strings to climb on with their delicate tendrils. We buy sugar snap seeds from Botanical Interests).

Someone eats a lot of peas as he is harvesting. Someone's mother doesn't mind at all.

Someone eats a lot of peas as he is harvesting. Someone’s mother doesn’t mind at all.

He collected peas between World Cup matches today and then we spent a companionable half hour shelling the peas and eating many of them as we watched Costa Rica play Greece in the World Cup and I put the water to boil. At halftime I made dinner to eat during the second half.

Quite a haul! We can freeze what we don't use. But we'll use it all before that happens.

Quite a haul! We can freeze what we don’t use. But we’ll use it all before that happens.

So the following Pasta with Chorizo and Peas  is a new recipe and below that you’ll find links to some of our perennial favorites: Spanish tortillas and Italian pastas. This recipe uses only the peas, but the pods are edible. I sliced the pea pods into my salad, as he doesn’t like those and I find them wonderfully crunchy and sweet.

Rich flavor that doesn't overwhelm the peas.

Rich flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the peas.

Continue reading


400th Post – A celebration because YES, I have ripe tomatoes!

7 Sep

This is my 400th post, which seems to be quite a lot. It’s funny how much energy you can manage to put into the things you love. Even when you don’t have any energy to spare.

Another view....

Another view….

So I am not going to say much, just show you my paste tomatoes, which are lighting up a summer that was otherwise dark with failed crops….

And more to come...provided we keep a few steps ahead of the blight!

And more to come…provided we keep a few steps ahead of the blight!

Thanks to all of you for your visits and comments, It is terrific to know that there are so many kindred spirits out there gardening, cooking, eating….I would love it if you would take a moment to tell me what some of your favorite posts or recipes are!

Your friend in food,


(P.S. that is not blossom end rot on that ripe one in the background…just a funny ripple in the skin. Whew!)

At Least We’ve Got Some Beautiful Garlic….

31 Jul

Our vegetable garden has been fairly catastrophic this year. Aside from a decent harvest of peas and some nice lettuces, much of what we have planted has been eaten by critters, rotted by excessive rain, wilted by excessive heat, or inexplicably stunted. The radishes never took off, the broccoli hasn’t produced a single floret, the eggplant looks like an bad bonsai experiment — utterly lacking in buds to boot — even the basil has been chewed to a lace and ribs, and do you know ANYONE who can plant zucchini two years in a row and only have ONE, that’s right, ONE SINGLE SOLITARY, zucchini to show for it? That’s just pitiful.

Helping out with garlic harvest at Restoration Farm (in 100 degree heat!?!)

Helping out with garlic harvest at Restoration Farm (in 100 degree heat!?!)

Well, I could go on, but that might jinx the tomatoes, which actually look quite good, except I think my watering has not been consistent and there could be some blossom end rot in my future.

So, I will look on the bright side and say that not only did our garlic produce lovely scapes earlier in the season, but we are also drying a healthy bunch of our own garlic bulbs, planted last October in our raised beds from a head that I reserved from Restoration Farm last season.

Accentuate the positive...our homegrown organic garlic is beautiful and heady with fragrance. My friend Vic Munoz calls this stage: terrestrial jellyfish

Accentuate the positive…our homegrown organic garlic is beautiful and heady with fragrance. My friend Vic Muñoz calls them terrestrial jellyfish for their look!

So, no recipe today. Just a deep breath, thanking goodness that I am not depending on my crop to feed my family. A celebration of what has gone right. And a resolution to keep trying. Because knowing how to grow your own food is important and because perseverance is important and because everything takes time to master.

Wish me luck with the fall vegetables, some of which are already planted….



Where Do You Get Your Seeds? (Reader Input Request and Poll!)

22 Feb

As we get into the planting season, several people have asked me where I get my seeds. The answer is, from several sources (not all organic, as it happens, with my Puerto Rican herbs and peppers): the local garden supply stores like Hicks or Starkie Brothers, giveaways at foodie events, friends who send, seeds I’ve saved from our own garden or from the C.S.A. box.

Click on the radishes for Botanical Interests.

Radish French Breakfast Organic HEIRLOOM Seeds

Click here for High Mowing Seeds. Click here for Johnny’s Seeds.

So, I’m putting it out there…what are your most reliable and/or beloved seed sources and why? Please click on Comments at the bottom of the post to add your spoonful of wisdom.

And the poll (which refuses to be centered!)

Radish Revelation x 2: Roasted Roots and Sauteed Greens

30 May

We are eating from the garden! We are eating from the garden!

I cannot tell you how pleased we are with the French Breakfast radishes. No, we are not eating them for breakfast. No, we do not have any desire to suddenly become French (although a pied a terre in Paris or a cottage in the South of France would be very nice, thank you).

But the French Breakfast radishes? This little piggy said “Oui, oui, oui!” all the way home.

They are the easiest thing ever to plant and grow, don’t mind being crowded, move fast (like less than four weeks to edibility) and  are easy for a preschooler with no patience and limited fine motor skills to harvest.

Because we are pulling them out of the ground, and not out of a little plastic pouch, we also get the radish greens, so today’s blog is a double feature. You can use the whole thing (well, I do cut off the stringy rooty bit)!

However, because we pull them out of the ground, they are very, very dirty. In fact, I just found out that rather than harvest lettuce from the garden, my dad has still been buying clamshells of mixed greens from the store, “because I don’t feel like cleaning all that dirt….”


Let me just move on from that one and say, if you are willing to deal with the dirt (you may want to hose them down over the garden bed so you don’t lose all that good soil), the freshness of these radishes is amazing. And the sweetness that comes out in roasting is astonishing. The greens are great too, in the way that all leafy greens are great (to me). Saute with garlic and love them up. So here are your two recipes for the the same veg. Rock on!

(Full disclosure: my darling son – who planted, watered, thinned and harvested these with his own hammy little hands –  tried a bite of the roasted ones and spit them out. Whatever. More for me.)

Roasted Radishes

20-30 radish bulbs, topped and tailed (radish greens can be reserved and used for salad or sautéed with oil and garlic), and sliced in half

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs salted butter (or 1 Tbs unsalted butter and a sprinkle of salt)

1 -2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Place radishes on a rimmed baking dish (lined with foil if you prefer). Smother with remaining ingredients and roast for 15-20 minutes or until browning at the edges. Sprinkle with additional salt, if desired. Serve.

Sauteed Radish Greens

1 -2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Three cloves garlic, minced

Radish greens from 20-30 young radishes, thoroughly rinsed and dried, stems removed, if desired

Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in sauté pan at medium high until liquid and fragrant. Add garlic, lower heat and cook for one minute or longer – until lightly golden. Add radish greens and stir to coat. Cook at medium heat until bright green and wilted. Serve on its own, or as an addition to a sandwich.

Small Farm Summit 2012

18 Apr

Last weekend I did something totally for myself. (But for you, I will provide relevant informational links below! I will also include random, only loosely related photos, because I can’t stand how dense the text is and I bet you wouldn’t read to the end where the juicy stuff is!)

Tulips from the garden

I attended the Small Farm Summit 2012 at Hofstra University (that’s Hofstra, not Adelphi University, which campus I drove around in error and confusion and dismay followed by self-recrimination and self-flagellation, until  I realized I was only about ten minutes from Hofstra anyway – thank you GPS – and settled back to enjoy driving through how the other half – the folks who work and study at private universities — lives. Wow, that is definitely not the cement block public university horror architecture I am so intimately familiar with in my other life as a lecturer. They’ve got rolling landscapes, trees, stately brick buildings, lush landscaping…but I am meandering around the way things aren’t; let me get back to business).

The Summit was so inspiring – especially for someone like me, who is looking at her son entering kindergarten with some trepidation, not because he is not ready or I am not ready — we are ready. It’s because I’m afraid of what he’s going to eat! School lunches are notoriously unhealthy, and food “choices” are kind of laughable, unless you think that your divine right to tater tots and a bagel every day constitutes freedom of choice for the consumer. Or a five-year-old. Oh yeah, and now that he’s leaving our beloved Greenhouse, nobody’s going to be reheating lovingly homemade foods for H.R.H. Leandro, Prince of My Heart at lunchtime. How am I going make sure he gets healthy hot meals in the dead of winter? Yikes.

Caroline, Ava and Kobe (my spellings are probably wrong - apologies!!!) at Restoration Farm...behind them are two new features!

To be fair, I have yet to truly investigate the situation — we’ll have to wait until the end of my semester for that. But I want to be armed and ready for action, should the need arise. And really, I just want to be involved with food. It’s not just about my kid. It’s about all of us.

Since I didn’t even take pictures at the event (part of the self-flagellation on my circuitous route to the conference was realizing I forgot my camera) and I can’t seem to pull even a logo off the Small Farm Summit website, I am just going to reference some of the inspiring folks who spoke and provide links to the amazing things they do!

Volunteering at R.F.

Former NBA player and son of sharecroppers, Will Allen and Growing Power are greening Milwaukee with intense urban farming that serves to feed people better, improve soil, reduce the waste stream and teach folks farming skills. Wow.

The Green Bronx Machine   is a high school project by teacher administrator Stephen Ritz, who is a dynamo who took forgotten, abandoned and given-up-on students and, through garden projects, is creating high school graduates with marketable skills earning living wages. See pretty much the same hilarious and moving lecture I did here: TEDx

Chef Ann Cooper The Renegade Lunch Lady has transformed the way many public school districts feed kids: no processed foods, no defrosted foods – just locally sourced, fresh ingredients and simple, kid-friendly good stuff. See how it can be done with the free tools at Lunch Box.

A Restoration Farm resident

For more on greening school food and all things organic (and really really tasty) especially on Long Island,  visit Bhavani Jaroff at  iEat Green LLC

Jan Poppendieck’s book Free For All: Fixing School Food in America (one of many she has written) traces the whys of subsidized school lunches from their inception as a way to use up surplus!!! In her talk she helped make sense of how we got here and where we are going (and it is not necessarily to hell in a handbasket…)

Brooklyn Food Coalition‘s Beatriz Beckford helps schools and families learn to eat better from the grassroots (this is a terrible pun, I know, but sometimes I lack impulse control). They have a conference coming up…click on the link for more information!

Leonore Russell is an educator at Crossroads Farm in Malverne, part of the Nassau County Land Trust. A former Waldorf teacher, she presented a lovely workshop on getting kids into the garden. We’ve been cuddling up with Peter Rabbit books ever since and I have to say, Leandro is very jazzed about doing the watering of the beds by himself.

And Susan Simon, a social worker at the Hicksville School District, gave a terrific little presentation about how she got raised beds into her district. I got so many ideas about incorporating gardening into the curriculum from her!!!

The beds before there was anything but seeds; I owe you pictures of our progess!

I was so exhilarated by the end of my day at the Summit (I had to go home at 2 pm because of other obligations, but the goings-on went on!) that I could barely stand it; I was and am all ready to take on the world…but I must admit to terrible pangs of some unpleasant emotion that accompany my desire to move forward. I can’t quite describe it in a word (mid-life crisis being just too damn pedestrian to want to apply to myself), but it’s that wondering why I didn’t prepare better for the grown-up I was going to be? Why did it take me so long to figure out where I really wanted to be immersed? And the ever-present questions of balancing good sense and responsibility with the desire to launch: can one do both? And…


So, the next day I planted some more vegetables with my dad in our new raised beds — OMG the beets are bursting through! — and resolved to dedicate my summer to gardening a lot and seeing what comes up.

BTW – shout-out to Restoration Farm our CSA, and TWBarritt, a blogging and farming buddy who was ably manning the table and whose blog Culinary Types, is a personal favorite. And to Donna Sinetar who I only saw through a conference hall window, but who presented on chickens after I had to leave!  


Let the (Gardening) Games Begin!!!!!

5 Apr

I have my garden! I have my garden!

My dad (Pedro) and I have been plotting (haha) to do some raised beds in our yard, now that some of the trees had to come down and there are a few sunny spots. Last year I did some container gardening in those spots as a sort of reconnaissance mission and this week, Pedro and his buddy, Tommy, put together some raised beds from instructions from Organic Gardening magazine (April/May 2012). I can’t find a link to the instructions right now, but visit their Beginner’s Guide to Organic Farming and poke around in there and you’ll find loads of good info to get started.

So, we made a garden chart and yesterday in went the pea seedlings (I had started some indoors and some outdoors a couple of weeks ago – you’re not supposed to start peas indoors, but we’ve done it before, with good results, plus it helps Leandro follow their progress more easily). The mesclun lettuce and arugula seeds went in also.

Today we’ll be stopping by a local nursery for more seeds, now that we have a plan: spinach, radish, beets, chard, and eggplant. We’ll be buying organic, as I mistrust the whole Genetically Modified thing and the chemical stuff.

My tomato seedlings (seeds saved from last year’s tomatoes, aren’t I the little homesteader?) are looking well, but will stay indoors for now, as will the ají (sweet cooking pepper from P.R.) from my cousin Josie’s garden in Mayagüez. I’m starting basil from seed too – feeling really productive and busy and probably boring the hell out of you with my laundry list of planting, but so be it. I am excited to finally be embarking on a vegetable gardening adventure!

I am eager to know what you all are planting and planning for the summer months…I don’t really know what I am doing, but Pedro and I have agreed that this will be a year of more learning than producing (nice to have the Restoration Farm back-up, no?). Mind you, we are both demanding of ourselves, so that is perhaps not going to work out and we will agonize over every mistake, insect infestation, browned and spotted leaf or low yield…We’ll have to take good notes!

More helpful links:

What to Plant Now zone charts from Mother Earth News (it only considers the Lower 48 – no Puerto Rico either, sorry!)  How-To-Grow primers from Organic Gardening magazine

Find out your growing zone here.

Happy Planting!

One Week to Our First Pastured Chicken: Final Selection of Recipe Has Begun!

15 Jun

Leandro's first homegrown peapod

Just before this week’s visit to Restoration Farm, we went out into our yard where Leandro picked the very first pea pod from a plant he himself started from seed! We were very pleased, even though the peas weren’t so tasty raw. This was a random variety from a garden show craft, so we have high hopes for the others we planted – Burpees Garden Sweet (organic). His eyes reflected the magic of a seed transforming into food.

Trish and one of her flock

Then at Restoration Farm, we visited that other transformation into food; Trisha tells us that the pastured chickens are a week away from our cooking pots. They will be seven weeks and one day, and — we hope — about five pounds. She had initially planned to go to eight weeks, but due to the window of opportunity for processing and the fact that they are getting slower and heavier and more prone to disease, she figures next week is it!

Ignorance is bliss


Leandro still finds the chickens stinky (and really, they are pretty pungent at this point) and was more interested in drawing sweet beads of nectar out of the honeysuckle blossoms that are exhaling seductive breaths of fragrance all over the farm these days. He learned the art of drawing out the style from Farmer Steve and then taught me! Delicious.

Honeysuckle gives it up for Leandro

So now I am planning what to do with my first bird. As I expect it to be less fatty and moist than a factory bird or even an organic chicken from a large facility, I am thinking about dishes that will help contain the moisture and make the most of the added flavor that a slightly more muscular bird will have. I also want to do something that is already in Leandro’s growing list of delectable foods, so as not to risk some refusal. And then there is the desire to honor my Caribbean forebears who lived off the land (some still do, at least in part).

So… I’ve got two ideal candidates from the criollo* canon: arroz con pollo: chicken and rice,or asopao de pollo: soupy chicken and rice. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on which one it should be!

*Criollo or Creole refers to the generations of colonialists actually born in the colonized place. In the case of Puerto Rico, the Spanish were the first Europeans to settle. They remained Spaniards, but their offspring born on the island (in many cases, half European and half native) were known as criollos – not quite European, but not quite native, either. Criollo cooking (like Creole in New Orleans, for example), reflects the meeting of different worlds of cooking ingredients and techniques.

Farm and chicken update (and new poll!)

7 Jun



We headed over to Restoration Farm, our CSA, today to put in a little work and visit the chickens.

Leandro was a champion snap pea picker (he remembered his skills from last year) on this bright sunny day that showed hints of what a sweltering hazy, hot and humid Long Island summer can be.

Many peas didn’t make it to the basket, as they ended up in his mouth. He won’t yet eat the pods, preferring to open them up and eat the tiny peas inside, edamame-style. It’s a start. And at least he knows they grow on vines, not exclusively in the frozen food section! Mommy gets the pods, which are wonderfully crunchy and bright.

The boy was also introduced to the delights of picking strawberries, but won’t get a chance to pick his own quart until our pick-up day, later this week. Whether any berries he picks will actually end up getting home is doubtful. I will have to make sure he doesn’t get out of hand. He can devour a pound of strawberries at a sitting and since they are amongst the most chemical-laden of fruits when conventionally-grown (see http://ewg.org/) and very expensive to buy organic, I hope this is a good year for strawberries in our neighborhood!

We visited the chickens, of course. He still loves Donna’s future egg-layers and their roving chicken coop (now painted a proper barnyard red), but the now five-week-old eating birds, not so much.

“Ew! Stinky!” is all I got out of him today, as he ran away to see what he could spirit out of the berry patch. As we get closer to our first installment of locally pastured chickens, I am starting to think about what irresistible dish to concoct for him….


Earth Day: What are you planting?

22 Apr

We are getting into gear for summer bounty by starting some seedlings indoors.

We’ve got beans that Leandro started at a garden show, already big enough to require supports. We’ve started arugula and sweet peas that we hope to put in the ground after the last frost danger (April 30 in our Zone 6B, although I have alwaus thought it was Zone 7!?!) . Next up, we’ll start basil (Leandro loves pesto) and lettuces directly in the ground.

This makes me sound like I know what I am doing, but of course, I don’t. We have only recently had to take down or trim some of the many trees in our yard, so we are hoping that this will result in more sun for veggies…but this is purely experimental.

Our real vegetable source will be our CSA (Restoration Farm) in Old Bethpage where we will pick up organic vegetables each week. We just spent a great day helping out there, splitting dahlia bulbs and breathing fresh air.

I’d love to know what you are doing for Earth Day and whether you will be growing vegetables this year. I know some of my subscribers are fire escape gardeners, while others are real farmers and still others are herb kitchen gardeners like myself. Let’s hear about it! Please comment….

Happy Earth Day!

Natalia and Leandro

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