The Fruits of my Garden: Figs, Apples, Pomegranates, Asparagus and Berries

Standard
The second fig crop is still ripening on my Ficus  ‘Petite Negra’.
Days are shortening and nighttime temperatures are cooling down. Yesterday was our first dreary and wet reminder that our days are numbered. It misted and rained. Clouds hung in the air all day—as did the smell of PNW dampness. The city of Portland felt autumn as the season sauntered just a little bit nearer.
Columnar Northpole apple (Malus) produced more fruit than ever! It tasted sweet, tart and crisp.

This was not much of a harvest year for me in terms of edible crops. I like to grow ornamental plants for their seeds so that I can harvest them for my online garden shop. I do harvest something, but it’s not what most people think of when they think of harvests. I’m a seed farmer, but I grow a few things to eat too.

Dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Nana’.

My dwarf pomegranate was grown from seed and I collect seeds from it each year. Since the shrubs are young, each year they produce more and more fruit. This year is by far their best so far and I expect to have more ripe fruit than ever.

Flower on the dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Nana’.
Ripening fruit on the dwarf pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Nana’.

There has also been a growing herb collection around the house. I’ve been cooking more recently and it’s something John and I very much enjoy doing together. This winter I intend to plan the garden better for these activities since we find ourselves buying so many herbs all of the time. Limiting salt in my diet due to my swelling disease has really made me appreciate the taste of herbs so much more. We barely use any salt now. If you cook your food right, paying close attention to flavors, it’s amazing how far herbs can go to replace sodium.

The overgrown asparagus bed. These were grown from seed.

When I originally planted edibles in the garden I wanted to plant things that were either difficult to find or else ornamental and unusual. The asparagus was neither. It reminded me of the fresh asparagus grown by Italian-American farmers in the PNW. Even though I can still buy it at the store, I really enjoy my own plants more. What’s nice is that even though they’ve been neglected, they’re still very productive.

Evergreen huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum.

My native evergreen huckleberries are also wonders to behold this time of year. Usually they are packed full of fruit but I guess mine aren’t going to be this time around. Since last year I had an amazing crop I don’t mind at all. These are amazing ornamentals for shady corners so it’s simply a bonus if they produce for me too.

The image of edible gardening shame—an unused and overgrown raised bed.

This year I was hoping to use the raised bed for a large basil planting. I never quite made it but next year I’ll make it happen. Now that there’s a pesto- and polenta-loving Northern Italian in the family I can get past my Southern Italian culinary preferences. I always loved basil (and polenta) too. Next year will be the summer of basilico around here. (I can already smell it on the horizon.)

The first 2013 crop of figs.

I recently took an online poll of my fig-loving friends for recipe ideas. Since I was raised to just eat them fresh I thought it was time to do something different. (Besides, I can only eat so many with goat cheese and pistachios before I begin feeling a bit piglet-ish so I wanted to find something healthier.) A Parisian friend recommended Honey Roasted Figs and Rosemary (Figues rôties au miel au romarin) and I am so glad that he did. The figs tasted fantastic!

Honey Roasted Figs with Rosemary
• about 1 dozen fresh figs
• 1/3 cup honey (fresh and local if possible)
• 1 large sprig of rosemary broken into 4 pieces
• freshly cracked pepper
Heat oven to 375F. Wash and dry figs. Cut in half. Arrange open side up in a baking dish. Drizzle figs with honey. Arrange the pieces of rosemary between the figs. (If you want the rosemary taste to be stronger, I suggest adding more.) Crack pepper over the figs. Place in oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the honey begins to caramelize. Let cool. Can be served with a nice mild—yet tangy—goat cheese.
 
C’est magnifigue!

(The Grow Write Guild is a creative writing club for people who garden. It’s a series of bi-weekly writing prompts created by garden author and blogger Gayla Trail. I’m starting out late with the series but hope to catch up soon. It’s just what this blogger needed for some summer fun.)

Wordless Wednesday: The gardener is here, there—everywhere!!!

Standard
Rhododendron sinogrande.
What plant for the cat this year?
I’m currently finding homes for all of this poor babies. No. I am NOT a plant hoarder.
Dear St. Fiacre, please grant me garden sanity and grace before I lose my mind. This garden is out of control and I cannot just “let it go”. I did that already and it didn’t work.
So I’m still only showing you the same old view of the backyard.
Roses and cherries as seen during a neighborhood walk. I do love this time of year.

Happy Blogoversary! Amateur Bot-ann-ist Turns 5 and Ficurinia Celebrates with Some Prickly Pears

Standard

Usually I’d post a Wordless Wednesday post here but today is special so I will forgo that formality.

Today my blog turns 5 and I wanted to celebrate. The cheesecake is not yet complete, but the prickly pear sauce for it is, and now you can all hear about my relationship with the prickly pear…

First off, that’s not Pepto-Bismol pink. This is no shy fruit color. It will stain you and stain you well. It’s Barbie pink, hot pink, not understated pink, and it’s loud and proud.

Tasting of apple and watermelon, it’s really a strange fruit. Not sure if these were unripe or older fruits though since they happened to taste more of Aloe vera to me, but they tasted of prickly pear and that’s all that matters. Tasting subtly of prickly pear is the way to go. (Yes, I eat Aloe vera too.)

I will have pics of the chèvre cheesecake that will be drizzled with this stuff up here tomorrow and I’ll include a recipe with it.

So for now, just enjoy the warmth your computer screen is giving off because you’ve stopped to look at my blog. I am happy you’re here and grateful too.

Here’s to the next 5 years!!!

*****
Ficurinia is Sicilian dialect for prickly pear and I chose it as an online name years ago because of a story my father used to tell me about my Sicilian-American grandfather.
As a boy, his family had driven to CA to visit my Grandma Virginia’s brothers. Once over the Oregon/California border my grandfather was looking for every opportunity to stop and eat prickly pear cactus fruits. My father told me that as he sat in the car, pulled over next to the highway, he watched as his dad chowed down and other cars passed them. It embarrassed him that his father was acting like such an “immigrant” and he was ashamed. Later in life, after he’d lost his father, he regretted having felt that way.
I never knew my grandfather since I was born after he died. This story about him always fascinated me though and I wanted to eat the fruit myself to see what it was that drew him to it. During my 20s when I had the opportunity I fell in love with them too. Though I don’t eat them often, when I do, I think of my Grandpa. I think of him eating them while stationed in Italy during WWII and I imagine him eating them along the highways of CA whenever I go in search of seeds.
Through the prickly pear I am firmly connected to what I can only call the most mysterious and special part of myself. I am a gardener and I love plants and it is a gift that comes from somewhere deep inside of me. When I close my eyes to look into the still darkness it is the prickly pear I see and it is the image connected to the tie that binds me to the earth. I should add that it connects me to the kitchen too. But more on those activities later…
Salvatore Amato, soldier (October 31, 1944).
My Sicilian great-grandfather Frank Amato, my Grandma Virginia, my father as a baby, my Grandpa Sam. (Looks to me like someone might have been working in his garden that day.