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

13 10 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, then tweak to perfection as we go along.

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.

Tiger lily

3 08 2008

Sigh…another (later-blooming) lily that I must add to my lily collection. These beautiful tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) were blooming in Karen’s garden this weekend. It is one of several lilies that go by the common name of Tiger Lily. It is considered one of the earliest lilies to be domesticated.

See my original posting on Karen’s memory garden here. Her garden is lush and full these days. I’ll post some overall shots I did (with the comparison photos next to them) later.

I found a beautiful poem about tiger lilies here. Here is an excerpt:

Tiger Lily
Gray are the gardens of our Celtic lands,
Dreaming and gray,
Tended by the devotion of pale hands,
On barren crags, or by disastrous sands,
That night and day
Are drenched with bitter spray.
There rosemary and thyme are plentiful,
Larkspur that lovers cull,
Love-in-the-mist that is most sorrowful.
Flowers so wistful that our teardrops start…
Scarcely one understands that regal, rare,
Bravely the tiger lily blossoms there,
Bravely apart.
—Walter Adolphe Roberts, 1920

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

In loving memory of Kathryn Parrish Shepard

29 04 2008

My dear friend Karen’s mother passed away March 26. With monetary contributions from her fellow Weedettes in the Runnymeade Garden Club and Supper Club friends (thanks, everyone!), I suggested that she and I start a memory garden to honor her mother. Her mother loved gardening, too. The highlight of the garden would be the heart-shaped stepping stone Sue and I purchased for her at McDonald’s Nursery in Virginia Beach a few weekends ago. It was such a perfect sentiment for this garden (even though whoever typeset it put an apostrophe in “its,” when it was possessive and not a contraction…and one sentence is missing a period (okay, so this is a peeve of mine, as you may have noticed). We bought it anyway because it was so fitting, despite these annoying (to me, at least) errors.

It reads, “My Mother kept a garden of the heart. She planted all the good things that gave my life its start. I am my Mother’s garden. I am her legacy. I hope she feels the love reflected back from me.”

Karen and I went shopping this past Sunday morning from 10:30-1:00, hitting Home Depot and Campbell & Ferrara Nursery (http://www.campbellferrara.com/) for loads of plants. Karen kept worrying that I was overspending and I told her to just enjoy the ride. How often do you get to shop for plants and someone else pays for it? Relax, girl! I also told her that since her birthday is April 30 (tomorrow!), any “overage” would be my birthday gift to her!

Our primary focus was perennials, but we threw in some colorful annual flowers and herbs, too. Her garden already had good “bones,” with nice foundation plants, grasses, and a few bulb plants (tulips and irises), and mums. We added purple, yellow, and white coneflower; a shasta daisy, yellow yarrow, purple salvia, catmint, four sedums (upright and creeping), yellow tickseed, and loads of herbs (rosemary, variegated sage, chives, sweet and purple basil, lemon thyme, and a lavender plant. For instant color, we added white allysum, hot pink impatiens, deep purple wave petunias, and two lime green sweet potato vines. We planted two colorful coleus (one of her favorites) in the shade under a foundation plant. She also picked out two cucumber plants to grow in pots on the front step.

After lunch at Macaroni Grill, we headed home and from 3:00 to 8:00, we moved existing plants around, redesigned the garden, and put in all those plants. We didn’t even stop when it started sprinkling! (You can just imagine how lovely we looked, covered in mud and mist!). Husband Joe/Clifton came home just in time to be assigned the task of dragging a rather large bag of garden soil around. He also cleaned up the mess we made on the sidewalk (thanks, Joe/Cliff)!

The memory stone is nestled among Debbi’s Thomas Jefferson miniature irises, purple salvia, alyssum, tickseed, and yellow yarrow in a small bed just behind Karen and Joe (in the photo below). The inset photo is of the Garden Goddesses 😉

I’ll record the garden’s progress throughout the growing season, of course. Thank you to everyone for helping make Karen’s little memorial garden possible. We love you, Weedette Karen (and Joe/Cliff). And the happiest of birthdays tomorrow, red-headed woman!