The bean harvest

30 09 2011

Behold—the fruits vegetables of my labor!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Green Spring Gardens portfolio

30 09 2011

I just updated my Green Spring Gardens-only portfolio on my Zenfolio site. Green Spring Gardens is an endless source of photographic inspiration to me, so I’ve dedicated a folder exclusively to images shot there. Check out that gallery here.

As we’re heading into fall, there are still a few plants left to photograph in my own garden, such as the tiny Speckled Miyazaki Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta ‘Miyazaki’), Autumn Joy Sedum (Sedum telephium) and Shasta Daisies (Chrysanthemum maximum) that are blooming in the front yard. Even my Globe Thistle (Echinops Ritro) has started putting out blooms again, which I find odd at this point in the gardening season—I suppose it has something to do with the inordinate amount of rain and consistently temperate days we’ve had here in Northern Virginia. Beginning a week ago, the Heavenly Blue Morning Glory vines in the front yard have produced a single, bedazzingly blue bloom each morning, mingling with the garish red and yellow combo of the Butterly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) plants nearby. The Morning Glory vines reseed each year with no assistance from me, so I stopped planting new seeds a few years ago!

Although the three vines have been stretching along the grape arbor, I still see no signs of blooms from my new Passionflower plants, but I still hold out that hope that all gardeners learn to cultivate. I planted two Passionflower plants in one pot to trail up the grape arbor outside my patio doors and one in another pot with a trellis near the edge of the patio. Sharing the trellis are at least three green bean vines—unexpected sprouts from a neglected seed packet discovered on my potting bench. (Read my posting about that discovery in “Against all odds” here.) I have since harvested a dozen green beans from those tenacious little sprouts (which translates to “don’t quit your day job to become a green bean farmer”). A photo of my meager bean harvest is to come…

Learn “How to Grow Your Garden Photography Skills” in my recent photo feature for Nikon’s Learn & Explore section here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Harvest time

21 07 2011

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





“With Basil then I will begin, Whose scent is wondrous pleasing”

3 10 2010

Re-post from 10.13.2008

…from Michael Drayton’s 1612 topographical poem, “Polyolbion,” describing England and Wales. Drayton was an Elizabethan poet and one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries.

Yesterday Karen and Gina and I made far more pesto than we really needed. My basil harvest was fairly skimpy this year (enough for about 4 cups total). Gina’s harvest was about the same. Enter Karen—that’s her in the first photo, arriving with a bountiful harvest of both Genovese and Purple Basil that she and I planted in late spring in her memorial garden honoring her mother.

In the second photo, you’ll see all the ingredients necessary for a “Pesto Preparation Party.” Ample basil, olive oil, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, a food processor, salt and pepper, and plastic containers for freezing. The soda and brownie bites are simply fuel for the cooks (but every bit as essential).

Gina and I have made pesto from our homegrown basil for the past two gardening seasons. This year Karen joined us (thankfully—otherwise, our final product would have been far more skimpy!). Having never made pesto, Karen was an eager and willing assistant. We told her our basic recipe, but after watching us “tweak” the recipe batch after batch, no doubt she is now confused on exactly how much of each ingredient we really used. Gina, as usual, served as the quality control inspector, sampling each batch on a bit of bread, then announcing, “needs more garlic,” “tastes too green and/or basil-y,” “add more salt,” and “cheese, must have more cheese!” Each batch was a little different from the previous one, so we ultimately just combined all the batches into one. Please don’t ask me for our final recipe. We have no idea what it is. We just make it from a basic recipe similar to the one here, (or see recipe below) then tweak to perfection as we go along.

Basil Pesto Recipe

Ingredients:
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. If you are using walnuts instead and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first before adding the basil. Add the garlic then pulse a few more times.

2. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula. Add grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Makes 1 cup. Serve with pasta, over baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguettes.

We ended up with SIXTEEN containers of pesto. When Gina and I prepare pesto with our meager harvest, we max out at about seven containers. Muchas gracias to Karen and her contribution this year!

SIDEBAR: Every year Gina and I make pesto in preparation for the much-anticipated annual Pesto Fest that Michael and I host in our neighborhood. This year’s event was slated for Sept. 27, but had to be cancelled due to the constant rain we had that week, including the day of the event. We thought rescheduling for one of the next two weekends would put us into too-cool-to-have-it-outdoors scenario, but that was not the case. The past two weekends have been glorious. Sigh….take a look at last year’s festivities here. There’s always next year!

P.S. Gina and I made “Sage Pesto” the first year and strongly advise that you avoid it at all costs. Ewww.

Click here for the “How to Make Pesto like an Italian Grandmother” recipe.

Click here for a slew of pesto-based recipes.

Click here for more recipes, folklore, and growing tips.

Click here to learn more about growing, harvesting, and cooking with basil.

And finally, click here to read about basil in literature and art at the site for The Herb Society of America.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Sigh…the final harvest

22 10 2008

The temperatures are finally starting to feel more fall-like in Virginia. A few nights ago, we gathered up the three passion flower vines and brought them into the studio so they could continue their growing indoors through the winter. I cut the last of the catnip and made our cat, Jasper, a very happy boy this afternoon. And although there are still a few things in bloom, the garden is growing weary and fading fast. The only things blooming now are daisies, butterfly bushes, yellow mums, and balloon flowers in the front. And the only things blooming in the back yard garden are a red cardinal plant and one solitary Marguerite daisy. It’s nearing that sad, sad time when my garden goes dormant. I’ll put the garden to bed for the winter by next week.

When the evening weatherman reported impending frost a few nights ago, Michael ran out to pick the remaining (green) tomatoes (for his homemade tomato relish), as well as the rest of the green beans. With flashlight in hand, he picked what he could find easily in the dark, then I assisted by shining one of my studio modeling lights through the window. To add to the harvest, I found another dozen beans today on a vine hiding by the heat pump.

Without further delay, I present to you the final bean harvest—enough for dinner for two…and a beautiful poem by Irish poet and playwright Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), followed with a quote by one of my favorite writers, May Sarton.

The Sunlight on the Garden

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

—Louis MacNeice

__________________________________________

In the garden the door is always open to the holy—growth, birth, death. Every flower holds the whole mystery in its short cycle, and in the garden we are never far away from death, the fertilizing, good creative death. May Sarton

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Blossoms & Beans

1 09 2008

Harvesting photos from my Labor Day garden….

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Now that’s more like it!

11 08 2008

Over the past three days, I have picked 47 grape tomatoes from my garden. Now that is a harvest by townhouse garden standards! I photographed them in this beautiful ceramic bowl my friend Carmen gave me a few years ago. I also picked five more of the yellow tomatoes shown in this posting (a very meager harvest that day) and this posting.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Today’s bountiful harvest

27 07 2008

Okay, so “bountiful” doesn’t really apply in this case. And I most certainly would lose weight if all I ate was what I grew. Nevertheless, my meager bounty certainly makes for a lovely still life, doesn’t it?

The beautiful yellow ‘Jubilee’ tomato is courtesy of my client and friend, Sophia, who generously gives me several exotic tomato plants (that she lovingly grows from seed!) each gardening season. This is the first large yellow tomato I’ve grown in our garden. There’s another almost-ripe one hanging on the vine—I can monitor its progress through the studio window. I’m the ultimate multi-tasker—I can design on the computer, run out and photograph something blooming in the garden, pet the cat, feed the fish, talk on the phone, and be on “tomato watch” all at the same time.

The only true tomato harvest we have ever had was when we first started the garden almost seven years ago. Michael planted four Roma tomato plants and by the end of the season, I had picked well over 500 tomatoes! Every few days I would run out in my pajamas (yes, I sometimes work in my pj’s if I’ve pulled an all-nighter working on rush projects—working in your pj’s is one of the perks of self-employment) and scoop up ripe tomatoes in my pockets. I picked so many I was giving them away to strangers in the neighborhood (In case you’re wondering, I did get dressed for the tomato deliveries!). At that time I wasn’t a tomato lover—that came later in life, but I love them now and would be a bit more hesitant to share (particularly since we reap much less than we sow these days). We haven’t had that kind of harvest anomaly since.

The green beans are Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans. I grow these every year (and harvest just enough to fill a bowl). I also love to grow the Yardlong Beans just because they’re so long! They can grow up to three feet long, although they’re best if they’re picked at 18 inches or less. Highly-prized in Asia, these pencil-thin beans are also known as long-podded cowpea, asaparagus bean, snake bean, or Chinese long bean. Sometimes, if there’s room (there never really is, but I manage to squeeze them in anyway), I’ll grow Tricolor Bush beans from Renee’s Garden seeds just because they’re colorful!

I may only pick a handful (or two) of each edible thing I grow, but it still makes me feel like a productive urban farmer. Of course, if I tallied up the cost of seeds, stakes, containers, potting mix, Miracle-Gro, and watering, I’ll probably end up with a result like William Alexander, the author of The $64 Tomato, did. Speaking of which, it’s a really great book; I highly recommend it…and check out his blog here. My beans are probably worth about $5.00 a string! And don’t even get me started on how much the cherry tomatoes are worth…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Tomato harvest

16 07 2008

Tomatoes! Yet another distraction from trying to get back to work after being gone for nine days visiting my family in San Antonio. I was working at the computer and caught a glimpse of ripe cherry (and some kind of orangeish in color) tomatoes on the vine outside my studio window…the first harvest of the season. Fifteen smooth, little, intense red gems.

Now that I’ve sworn off chicken (in my meander toward vegetarianism), vegetables have become my dearest friends. I even tried cabbage this weekend. Yep. Cabbage. Me. Will wonders never cease? (Of course, it helped that Mom lightly sauteed it in a pan in olive oil with a dash of sugar to carmelize it). I even had a few bites of canned cranberry relish, and although it wasn’t unpleasant, I still can’t get past the fact that it still looks like a can when you serve it!. I’ve been completely beef-free for almost twenty years. Rarely ever ate pork. Now chicken-, pork-, and turkey-free for nearly a month. I’ve found I don’t have a craving for the chicken—it was more just a habit and convenience to choose it when eating out. While these decisions are also health-based, they’re coming far more from compassion than any other reason. It was time to go “cold turkey”—pun intended.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.wordpress.com