I’m putting together a larger post that will go up later today, but here’s a preview of the lotus I saw at the Montreal Botanical Gardens back in August.Leave a comment
Exploring the world of gardening. Observations, gardens to visit, thoughts on ecology, gardener interviews, and commentary.
Turnout in the mutant vegetable competition at The Royal Winter Fair was disappointingly lackluster this year. I don’t know if it was the poor weather this season, or a waning lack of interest in growing monstrous, overgrown produce, but it seems that the competition fell from an abundantly healthy display in years past to the above six, pathetic contenders.
To be fair, I don’t recall having seen Siamese twin cucumbers before and was quite impressed. But the duck shaped potato that in my humble opinion stole first place from the Siamese twin cucumbers… PLEASE.
I should have entered my sweet potatoes, however we ate them all up soon after harvesting. The entire crop grew into twisted puzzle pieces that together could do a decent imitation of stomach intestines. Take THAT potato duck! I’m crafting myself a mental grand prize ribbon as I write this.
I pretty much only go to The Royal for the mutant veg, so thank god for the adjacent table of whale-sized squashes and melons or I would have been forced to demand a refund.
Look at the size of this thing! We put a quarter next to it for size comparison. At this size vegetables tend to morph but I’d hazard a guess that it’s a butternut squash.
I don’t know what they’ve got in their soil, but two of these three jumbo squashes were grown by competitors with the same last name. The biggest one is listed as a ‘long gourd’ or ‘Sicilian zucchini’ and comes in at 9ft 10.25.
It was held to the support structure with camo duct tape, a detail that won my heart. Automatic win! No, I wasn’t a judge. However, if there is a fall fair that would have me, I’d be very into it!
I neglected to record the weight of these larger than life-sized apples.
Enormous sunflowers and corn: one of my favourite categories.
And last but not least, the giant pumpkins.
These potatoes were a part of the regular produce competition. They looked so fake from what I deem to be excessive polishing, that I actually had to touch them to prove they weren’t made of plastic. That friends, is weirder to me than a Siamese twin cucumber.
Not vegetable related but equally fascinating:Leave a comment
Our off-time on a recent trip to New York City was spent wandering around soaking everything in and taking pictures. I didn’t go out of my way to visit specific gardens or community gardens this time, but naturally found some along the way.
One of the community gardens I came upon was the LaGuardia Corner Gardens located in Greenwich Village between Bleecker and Houston Streets. I have come across this particular garden on past trips and have even taken some photos of it. I had a rough idea of where it was located and was pleasantly surprised when we stumbled upon it on our last day.
I’m not sure what it is about this garden that had me hoping to find it again. Maybe it’s the location, which is particularly interesting as the garden sits smack dab in front of a supermarket with a fence around it.
There are several community gardens in New York City that are a good twenty years in the making. Through the years the landscape and socio-economic standing of the communities that surround them have changed, often times from poor to rich and from rubble to fancy metal and glass contemporary structures. As a result, these gardens and their gardeners always have an interesting story to tell.
The history of LaGuardia Corner Gardens is your typical community garden story beginning with local residents digging a garden on barren, unused land, then fighting to keep the garden alive amidst a changing neighborhood.
While I was taking photos, a woman came up to me and mentioned that a rooster had been spotted poking around in the garden the day before. She didn’t know where he came from or if he was still there. This exchange and information sharing is one of the things I enjoy most about photographing gardens. If you hang around long enough looking like you belong, someone is always bound to come by, eager to reveal the garden’s secrets.
Sure enough, as we made our way around the perimeter we eventually spotted him darting about, stopping now and again to take a bite out of a plant. I wonder if he is still there and how much of the garden remains!Leave a comment
I had a heck of a time identifying this flower, Tatarian aster (Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’), last night. Thanks to everyone who chimed in to help out. For some reason I refused to believe it is an aster. But really, what else could it be?
I took this photo a few days ago on the new High Line Park in New York City. They’ve posted an October bloom list on their site that confirms my identification. I will do a full post about my visit soon, once I have a chance to dig through the millions of photos I took.Leave a comment
A few months back I decided not to do reviews anymore. Not that I did many in the first place, but the decision lifted a huge load off of my shoulders. It’s the difference between just not doing something, and making a conscious, said out-loud choice not to do something.
I love books, yet for some reason I do not enjoy reviewing them. Which is funny, because I love talking about them. Ask me what I’m currently reading and prepare to hear an earful. My Good Reads account is overflowing with lists of books I have read, am currently reading, or am hoping to find. I enjoy updating my lists and finding out what my friends are reading. But I never write reviews there either.
Recently, the FTC ruled that bloggers must disclose the items they receive free for review. I always did, so that ruling would not have affected me, and 9 times out of 10 the items I reviewed were those that I had purchased myself anyway, and not books that were sent by a publisher. This kerfuffle had nothing to do with my decision and came well after I had made up my mind.
All of that preamble to say that while I am no longer writing reviews in the traditional sense, I still plan to make mention of books and gardening related things that really inspire me. So basically, I’m not changing anything, just reasserting my desire to keep it limited to what moves me.
This summer I developed an insatiable desire for beautiful cookbooks and have been surprised by how many times I have walked into my favourite used bookstores around town with the express purpose of perusing the cookbook section exclusively. I have long kept the cookbooks in my home limited to one shelf. Part of my reason for this is a complete lack of ability to follow a recipe as it is written. I always make some change, or alter the idea completely. But it seems that now, more than ever, cookbooks are moving far beyond a list of recipes and into the realm of storytelling and journal-keeping. I am finding this movement very inspiring and am eager to search out more in this vein.
Eating is both personal and communal. Bringing that warmth and the individual charm of the writer into the package as a story makes great sense. The daily journal aspect of this movement also forces the story into a seasonal context very naturally. Over the years we have shifted our eating patterns closer to eating as seasonably as we can while allowing ourselves the occasional spontaneous treat. We’ve also upped the amount of food we freeze and I don’t have to remind you about my little canning problem. I am finding that the result of this is a greatly intensified and almost childlike love of the food I eat and an excitement about seasonal changes on a new level. I don’t take simple things like strawberries and pears for granted anymore. I am constantly gearing up for the next season and the treats that I know are coming down the pipeline.
The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater closely follows this journal-style model. The book is structured around a year in his eating life and offers personal stories about shopping at the market, yet includes lots of follow-along directions if needed. The result is a book filled with spontaneous seasonal meals — pretty much how most of us eat casually outside of special occasions and holidays.
I haven’t made any of the recipes yet, but have been told by others who love the book and are long term fans that there are recipes in there that have turned out to be personal favourites.
As you can see, the photographs are stunning and the paper the book is printed on is like butter. How he had the patience and commitment to wait until the food was photographed (by his partner) before diving into each meal day in and day out for an entire year is beyond me.
While, Moro East doesn’t follow a journal format in the traditional sense, it does chronicle, through photos and recipes, the last year in the life of an allotment garden in East London before it was demolished to make way for an Olympic hockey stadium. Members of this unique gardening community are predominantly Turkish or Cypriot so the recipes contained therein are all inspired by seasonal, homegrown cooking of Muslim Mediterranean origin.
Many of the recipes were cooked or prepared on site utilizing whatever was on hand in their garden. There is great inspiration for us gardeners with techniques and flavour combinations that had never occurred to me before. This recipe called Wanderer’s Soup is very much like the nettle soup we make in the spring when the nettles are young and tender, but includes nutmeg, cloves, and bay leaves. I can’t wait to try this next year!
The photographs by Toby Glanville are so friendly, warm, and captivating, I actually teared up going through the pages the first time. Both the garden and gardeners are photographed as they are on any given day, with no pretension or set decorating. I still get a chill and a rush of inspiration whenever I take another look.
This is my favourite photograph in the book. I want to garden alongside someone with enough sense of humour to wear that shirt. [It says, "Who's the Daddy?"]
I am eager to find new cookbooks to devour. What cookbooks are inspiring you?Leave a comment