I have so much to tell you about the Ecuadorian food store in my neighbourhood that it was difficult working out where to begin. I’ve travelled in Southern Mexico and I’ve perused many Latin American food stores, yet this store was a treasure trove of exciting food stuffs I had never seen before, primarily from Peru, Ecuador and Columbia. The packaging was delightful, too. But that’s a post in itself.
First up is huacatay, a dark sauce in a jar that had me perplexed. The label identified the main ingredient as “black mint”, but the illustration on the front looked nothing like the black peppermint I am familiar with. If I had to take a guess, I’d say it was a marigold, but even though I eat marigolds (particularly the gem series), I do so in small quantities and could not imagine devoting it to a sauce. Because that seemed illogical, I chalked the illustration up to the sort of packaging that just has any old plant stuck into the design.
Aka The Great Yearly Event in Which I Grant Myself Permission to Pig Out on More Herbs Than You Can Shake a Stick At.
I went. I smelled. Money left my wallet. I went home with an allergy attack and a cart full of glorious, smellerific plants.
Here’s what everyone wants to see:
- ‘Red Gem’ and ‘Tangerine Gem’ Marigolds – Have I sold you on these yet? I’ve been shouting high and low about these for years and they’re still not as popular as I’d like them to be. In fact I did not grow any from seed because they were so easy to find last year. 4 for a buck. This year, NOTHING. Now I’ve been reduced to purchasing these at 2 bucks a pop.
- Virginia Mountain Mint
- Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea) – A native carnivorous plant. I purchased this one from the North American Native Plant Society. There is a large cocoon snug inside one of the old pitchers. Only time will tell what will emerge from within. We wait and watch with fear and excitement.
- Coconut Geranium – My scented geranium collection is seriously out-of-hand. Have I mentioned how I really do not need more plants to over-winter? You should see it though. It’s the small leaved type with delicate little purple/pink flowers. Sigh.
- Peppermint Geranium – I have a variegated type but this one has irresistably soft and fuzzy leaves.
- Sweet Marjoram
- Basils – I won’t list all the varieties, of which there are many. Several in fact. This list might go on for days.
- Perilla ‘Britton’ – I grew this two-toned leaf variety last year and it was such a hit I thought I’d try it again.
- ‘Purple Beauty’ Pepper – A sweet bell pepper that I can’t recommend enough. It does well in medium-sized containers (try at least a foot and a half deep) with fruit that starts out purple so you don’t have to slug it out through boring green bells waiting for a colour change.
- ‘Black Pineapple’ Tomato – Colette of Urban Harvest describes it as “ugly but delicious.” She’s been trying to sell it to me all season-long and frankly I just don’t have the fortitude and willpower necessary to resist a black tomato.
- Orange Thyme – One of my favourite thyme varieties. There are an astonishing number beyond the usual — please don’t make me choose just one. This one features a very low trailing habit with spikey leaves that carry a sweet n’ spicey orange scent.
- Lemon Eucalyptus – I could not resist the strong, fresh lemon scent and the delicate, floppy leaves. I do not need another plant to overwinter! Why do I do this to myself?
I also received a couple of basils and eggplants in trade. Now I just have to get these things planted!
Previously: 2005, 2004, 2003… and so on.
Now I know why I neglected to write a yearly update after last year’s event… too many plants!
Phase 1 of “Project Deck Garden 2006″ was enacted yesterday afternoon. It was inspired by a sunny day and a headache that wouldn’t quit, which not surprisingly, was abated after a few hours in the fresh air. I won’t bore you with the details as Phase 1 involves large helpings of gardening’s lesser joys; clean-up, pot shifting, and organization. Instead I will list the enjoyable activities:
- Planting the “fancy”, or as I like to call them, the ‘Not 99 Cent’ pansies I bought last week. You know you’re shopping at a chi-chi garden store when they give you a paper bag for a couple of pansies.
- I then proceeded to cover the ‘Not 99 Cent’ pansies with several water bottle cloches (I’ve graduated to 4L bottles) as the flowers had all been snatched off. For years I’ve been blaming raccoons and squirrels but it turns out the thieves are my beloved starlings! WHY? Are the generous quantities of seed not enough? Can’t bargain with the birds. And incidentally the pansies do have a nice flavour.
- I planted two kinds of peas: a dwarf variety called ‘Tom Thumb’, and a sugar/snow variety I am trying for the first time called ‘Carouby de Maussane’. I decided on these instead of sweet peas as the flowers are purple and the peas are edible.
- Greens Galore – Mizuna, red mustard, several different lettuces, orach, purslane, and mache. I planted up just about every container that is currently empty, including some that will hold hot weather veggies since I’ve got nearly six weeks before the transplants go in and I will just remove some of the lettuce at that time. I’ve got a lot of seeds to use up. However, I just realized I’m out of arugula seeds! Ack!
- Radish Challenge 2006 – I can’t recall planting radishes this early in previous years which may say a lot about why I have rarely succeded in growing a decent, edible radish. The rooftop deck is windier than a ground floor garden, but it also gets very, very hot. The season is always a bit accelerated up there, resulting in lousy radishes (but early tomatoes!). This year I will grow a decent radish if it kills me. [Shakes fist in air]
- Carrots – I planted just a couple of the ‘Purple Haze’ in the container where the beans will go as an experiment. It really is impossible to think about this variety without singing the song… or imagining dudes with tie-dyed head bands dropping liquid acid onto their eyeballs. Just saying.
And then Davin showed up to help and informed me that in the tradition of bizarre, unexplainable things that happen around the street garden, someone had left a plastic wrapped cauliflower in the garden as a gift. But it seems, in an even stranger twist, that in exchange, they took the large paper bags that were holding the compostables that were waiting to be put out for city collection. Yes, they left the plant bits sitting on the sidewalk, but took the completely dilapitated and unusable bags. Huh? I REALLY have to get on making those signs I’ve been meaning to make since 2000.
Another seed order arrived in the mail from Greta’s Organic Gardens. I need to get on these asap as time is ticking. The bulk of these are tomato varieties I am testing out on the rooftop this year.
- Tomato ‘Golden Delight’
- Tomato ‘Principe Borghese’ – A paste tomato
- Tomato ‘Gold Nugget’
- Tomato ‘Black Seaman’ – An early variety.
- Red Pepper ‘Fatalii’ – I HAD to get them!
- Red lambsquarter
- Shungiku – There was a problem with the order. They accidently sent me hot peppers (a chili) but the replacement is on its way. I won’t use these hot peppers as I have a few other varieties on the go. The first Canadian to ask is welcome to them.
- Purple Millet ‘Purple Majestic’
Can you believe I have one more small order on its way? Yikes. And now I have to get some arugula! Yeah and did I mention the seeds I impulse-bought off a rack last week?
- Nicotiana ‘Indian Peace Pipe’ – These are by far my favourite nicotiana. They are huge (5′ tall) with fragrant, elongated blossoms.
- Marigold ‘Lemon/Tangerine Gem’ blend – I grew these last year and was so impressed, I’ve been promoting these like crazy since. They are incredibly prolific bloomers, the flowers are tiny with lacy foliage. And they really do taste like tangerines and lemons! They did really well in containers on my hot rooftop but keep in mind that the plants get to be quite large and rotund.
- Quinoa ‘Brightest Brilliant Rainbow’ – 2006 seems to be the year of hippie plants. Pretty and edible. I can not resist.
- Nasturtium ‘Mahogany’ – I have tasted enough nasturtiums to know that the red ones have the best flavour.
As promised, a few photos of my rooftop garden in June.
In the foreground you can see lemon cucumber, tomatillos, and peppers.
- A full view from underneath the gazebo – Facing north.
- Facing west
- Facing west (closer) – Sweet and hot peppers in the foreground with purple tomatillos in the grey, oval-shaped container and a tomato in the larger grey container (right side). That’s ‘Siam Queen’ basil hanging out the front of the tomato container. To the left you can see another large grey container (white tray underneath) with a tomato plant and some red rubin basil. It’s hard to see in this pic but I’ve added a decorative trim of twigs that I bent into an oval shape. I did a similar thing to protect the peppers (foreground) from the raccoons that insisted on digging the seedling up every night. Worked like a charm.
Fire escape silver boxes – The box on the left has lavender and various succulents while the box on the right has miniature curry plant and portulaca. The plants underneath are various basils, nicotiana, tangerine gem marigold, and green sausage tomatoes. There’s a silver fir tree tomato hidden back there too. It already has one small tomato!
- An old washbin holds beets, chives and catmint. – This looked exceptionally great when the chives were blooming. I need to fill in that bit of space with something flowering.