August 2008

The true meaning of Labor Day (lest we forget) is to honor labor. For me, that means appreciating the fruits of my labor in my garden. It is truly a labor of love and gives me great pleasure. Nature is bountiful and, combined with my somewhat haphazard planning and my steady stream of evening and weekend labor, yields a beautiful and tasty result. This weekend I am sharing these results, the fruits of my labors, with friends and family.

Today included turning one of my compost piles, watering and some pruning. It also included walking through the garden delighting in and picking the young and tender string beans, the tomatoes that are (finally) ripening, the steady output of cape gooseberries, the old and new squash and melons that I am trying this year and my first full harvest of apples.  Sharing these will be a pleasure, too, so I’ve been enjoying putting together gift bags of tomatoes, squash, cape gooseberries and apples.

May your own labors be as joyful and productive.

My Sungold tomatoes have been ripening for several weeks, now, but only in the past few days have my other varieties started to be fully ripe. I’ve been watching one particular tomato get redder and redder over about a two-week period. It finally got so red I had to take a picture. You can see it, hiding inside the tomato bush, just waiting to be picked. It’s so red, I wasn’t satisfied with just a distant shot, so had to get a closeup too. This has to be the reddest tomato I’ve ever seen. It was pretty darn tasty, too!

After last year’s dismal attempt at sauerkraut, I didn’t have my hopes up. But, I’ve been “harvesting” some of it every few days, to have a sample of how it tastes over time. Tonight I “harvested” my third and final batch. It’s yummy! I’m very pleased. The first test “harvest” was somewhat limp and salty cabbage. Tonight’s batch was mildly tangy, only slightly salty and still had a nicely textured chewiness to it. I think it’s perfect.

When I’ve finished eating and sharing this batch (about three gallons) I’ll make another batch and start experimenting with other recipes that have more than just cabbage on the ingredient list.

Last year I tried making sauerkraut a couple of times. Both times were less than stellar efforts. My first batch (plain sauerkraut) was not particularly flavorful and had a soft texture. My second batch (cabbage, carrots, turnips and brussel sprouts) was simply too overwhelming with flavors. The turnips and brussel sprouts are both strong-flavored vegetables and didn’t go well together. I’ve been wanting to try to make it again and a Russian friend, who learned to make sauerkraut from her mother, offered to share her ‘kraut wisdom with me. So, yesterday, we started a couple of batches–a plain cabbage batch for me and a cabbage and carrot batch for her. Now, I now have a crock of sauerkraut gurgling away in my kitchen. (more…)

The Great Wall of China has been getting lots of attention this week, as part of the Olympics coverage. But, my Great Wall is a blackberry picking site I discovered last year with my friend Karen. In the Bay Area, August is blackberry month, and we’ve been out twice now to the site. This is a popular site, in fact that’s how we found it last year, driving by and seeing a number of pickers scattered along the hillside. We now go out prepared, with lots of containers, pruning shears and leather gloves. So far I’ve picked and frozen 14 pints of berries. (more…)

One of my new experiments this year is cape gooseberries. This is a follow-on to ground cherries (a very closely related crop) last year, which were delicious, but small. This year I’m growing both, but my crops, while rife with berries, haven’t ripened yet. Tonight I joined a neighborhood walking group as we toured the neighborhood, stopping in at about a half-dozen block parties, all part of National Night Out Against Crime.


In yesterday’s mail I received a flier with an attention getting headline, “Don’t let Sacramento Politicians Remove Products From Your Grocery Bag”. Inside, another headline read “Banning Materials That Keep Our Food Fresh And Safe Is A Terrible Idea”, followed by “Soon, many common everyday products could disappear from grocery store shelves all across California.” The back page had a final fear-mongering headline “Your Favorite Products May Soon Disappear”. The flier had no indication on it of who it was from, except a small box that said “Paid for by”. It urged me to call a local California State Assembly member to urge him to vote no on a specific legislative bill. The text inside had no substantive information about what was at stake, other than that a substance, BPA, has been used as a coating to line canned food and beverages, “…a material that’s been safely used for 50 years in food packaging and a wide variety of plastic products like reusable water and baby bottles.”