21 July 2013
Creating an edible ecosystem is what permaculture is all about, looking for ways to layer in more life, more food, and fewer tasks for the gardener. When Christopher Shein came to City College this week to introduce his engaging new book "The Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Permaculture" I was grateful to be there with my friends Dorothea and Ellie.
I was reminded that the leaves and shoots of Chayote squash are edible. First introduced to this idea at a Hanoi restaurant where sauteed pumpkin leaves were on the menu, I had forgotten that these vital fuzzy greens are delicious! Chayote is a vigorous grower that will overrun anything in its path. Trimming is essential, and these tender early parts will soon be on our dinner table.
We talked about climbing Malabar spinach that produces year-round in coastal San Diego. Lucky us, to have the leaves of such a beautiful vine to add to salads. It has a slippery texture and tart flavor more like purslane than spinach. I've only eaten it raw. It may taste more like spinach when steamed.
From the garden at Merritt College in Oakland, Christopher shared seed for collards, chard and the Mimosa tree. I've planted them all. My Aunt Pat had a pink-flowered "silk tree" in her front yard when I was little. It's a nitrogen fixer that improves the soil as it spreads a broad canopy, but lets through enough filtered light that lots of food can grow under the Mimosa shelter. We do need some leafy cover to buffer the bright Southern California sunshine. Now to find the right place for it...
16 July 2013
11 April 2013
There's a new moon in Aries and it can super-charge creativity, according to dear ones who are in tune with these energies. Last night, Laura Plumb provided glue sticks, colored paper and intention to a circle of women who were invited to create their own Yantra for this season of Spring renewal.
I have to admit, I had never before heard the word "Yantra" but after a little enlightenment on the subject, I like the concept very much. It's kind of a personal mandala and focus for your meditation. I gathered the clippings I had in a box for a vision board that never took shape - taken from a letterpress project, a special card, tiny Tibetan prayer flags, magazines. I resurrected words and images, played fast and loose with the petals and triangles of the Yantra and made a little collage that pleases me. My muse says to shine. Just shine, and to keep seeking honesty in any of the infinite ways to express my soul in this life.
Each Yantra was deeply personal and quite beautiful. The diversity was exciting to see. I'm feeling alive!
03 April 2013
Sitting in the garden and drawing what I see is very meditative. Unpacking my new paint set and mixing the colors is where the challenge lies. Finding the right shades of green and mixing just the right size "puddle" of paint so that the greens will be consistent takes patience.
Next time I'll take a shot at the bright blue pot the Mission fig grows in.
29 March 2013
My pen and ink watercolor class is a total delight. The group is small, the teacher inspires me, and (bonus) it's an easy bike ride to the Park Blvd studio. I tried a Eucalyptus branch first. Next week we're going to sit in a University Heights coffee shop to sketch what we see.
I hear there's an urban "Sketch Crawl" that meets up every week here in San Diego, based on the work of Danny Gregory - I'm putting it on my list of new things to try this Spring.
21 December 2012
The Rosemary gave up a bundle of branches to make a wreath for the front door. It needed this - looks much more shapely after being pruned.
Today is Winter Solstice 2012 and the beginning of a New Age of compassion some say. It's no secret that the holiday season has become a frenzied, commercial affair. I'm ready for more restful times. Bringing a bit of nature inside, lighting a candle and building a fire get me into the right spirit. My body wants to retreat into the long nights of Winter, to emerge with fresh eyes and an open heart. Wishing you peace ~
24 November 2012
Thich Nhat Hanh has been a spiritual guide for me since the late 1990's when his book Teachings on Love was just the right medicine for my depleted soul. I've had many opportunities to study with my teacher since then and even met my husband while on retreat at Deer Park Monastery, the ultimate teaching on love!
In 2008 I went on a pilgrimage to Vietnam with 450 people from 41 countries, invited by my dear friend Jane and accompanied by lovely Holiday from Portland. We were honorary delegates to the United Nations in Hanoi and visited orphanages and temples all over Northern Vietnam as a Sangha (community) celebrating Thich Nhat Hanh's return to his home country after 40 years of exile.
Most of my time in Vietnam was centered in Hanoi, where Pho (pronounced "Fuh") noodle soup was on the menu every day for both breakfast and lunch. I learned a process for making the fragrant broth and cooking the rice noodles just enough.
8 cups water
3 T soy sauce
8 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 small onion, diced
1-inch piece ginger, charred and sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 pods star anise
2 large bay leaves
I've never been asked to char my ginger before, but for this recipe, I gladly skewer a thumb of ginger and blacken it over an open gas flame, like roasting a marshmallow. First, sweat down the garlic and onion in a large stockpot. Add soy sauce and water and bring to boil over medium heat. Char ginger, slice into pieces, and add to stock. Break cinnamon sticks and add, along with star anise and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered for 20-25 minutes. Strain out solids. Return clear broth to pot and keep hot until ready to use.
Veg Pho Bo
8 cups Vietnamese style broth (above)
1 pound rice noodles
1/2 cup Asian cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup tender greens, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn into pieces
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 scallions, sliced thin
3 T unsalted peanuts, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
Nice options to add: tempeh/tofu cubes - bean sprouts -mushrooms
When the broth has been simmering for about 10 minutes, soak the noodles as follows. Bring 4 cups of water to boil. Remove from heat, add noodles and let soak around 15 minutes, stirring now and then so noodles are pliable and separate easily. Drain noodles and divide among six bowls. Simmer mushrooms and tofu or tempeh in broth until heated through, then remove with slotted spoon and add to noodles.
Place fresh greens on top of noodles and ladle in the hot broth. With this technique, the greens will retain their freshness, and the rice noodles will not be overcooked. Serve with lime wedges, chili sauce, basil and cilantro, plus maybe some salt and pepper on the side.
The greens can be whatever is available from your garden and the quantity of greens to noodles is purely subjective. Once you have a broth that you like, and your rice noodles are soaked rather than cooked, everything else is open to artistic interpretation.
This recipe is for my sister and brother, Kim and Tom. Happy Holidays!
Adapted from Sally Bernstein, Vegetarian Journal 2000