Sunday, May 5, 2013

May washing over me

Light floods into morning windows earlier and stronger creating spaciously longer days turning into brilliant evenings of crickets and outdoor possibilities. It seems like May came around awfully quick this year probably due to a mild winter but definitely not having anything to do with my mind being a year older. A month perched on the edge of renewal and mischievousness, May heralds temperatures unarguably the best of the year hovering around 75 to 80 giving us plenty of time to get acclimated for the impending summer spike in mercury. Winter restlessness is cured by puritanical longings to get stuff growing. Some could say motive is food, fresh and home grown, produced with our own hands and backs, tenderly harvested daily and sensuously enjoyed in our amazing climate. Others may cite action itself; exercise meshed with accomplishment is motivation enough to get that garden going. Regardless of philosophy, satisfaction ensues on a daily basis, “gardens, the gifts that keep on giving”. Tomato plants, tendrils reaching longingly toward impending summer sun, eagerly await May evenings to set luscious fruits. Squash seeds poke green life through rich soil heralding the beginning of a never ending crop swap to last through the summer. Cucumbers crawl stealthily, developing little yellow flowers seemingly overnight promising that burp less experience in your salad. Time is perfect for getting all those little seedlings as well as seeds into the earth for a continuing year round garden. Enrich soils with organic compost, manures, worm casings, whatever your choice, lots is much superior to nothing in crop production. They say most summer vegetables want warmth in overnight soil temperature of minimum 53 to 55 degrees. We may be pushing that but most of us are planting pretty stabilized plants and not tiny seedlings so you need to play that one by ear. Best rule is amend, amend, amend that soil! Growing can be orderly furrows lovingly dug in the back of the yard, planted with seeds spaced an inch apart and deep or as contemporary as gigantic clay pots arranged decorously, on a nice west facing deck sporting tomato plants climbing up a trellis. Marriage between abstract splotches of color and orderly patches create a conceptual whole of the urban garden at its best in the cities and suburbs acknowledging inspired food production without a traditional farm. Local cherries are coming into the farmers markets at full speed. Early varieties are sweet and juicy this year and the crop is expected to be plentiful with a long, purposeful season. Hot house tomatoes, grown in local greenhouses, are bending market tables, brilliant in color and not too bad on the palate either. Strawberries are back, released from winter hoop growing, tasting sweetly mysterious, purposely provoking salivary glands to rule the wallet as you saunter by their table. Winter greens are still at their peak literally throwing off nutrition as you touch not to mention the effect on bodies once ingested. Fava beans are at their peak with a pretty short season not to be missed if possible. Don’t be thwarted by imaginary hardships of preparation of these sexy spring stunners. Take the whole beans, toss them in olive oil and cracked sea salt and lay on a really hot grill. The edible chartreuse gems inside the pod will steam right out as the outside, thick shells grill and turn into this amazingly tender, completely edible treat. Eat the whole thing. Purists will still want to go through the three step process of shelling, blanching and shelling to get to that tasty nugget to sauté or add to pasta, risotto, scrambled eggs, and sautéed vegetables or just to sprinkle with salt and eat as is. Spring peas perch prettily in little bags, all shucked and ready to be sautéed with a little olive oil, green garlic and mint searing spring into the mind blowing seasonality data of the mouth, ramping up taste anticipation for crops to follow. Excitement starts to get as steamy and the air outside as creative visualizations and ramped up preparations for late spring and summer grilling of asparagus and local wild salmon fight for space with rosemary and lemon stuffed whole chickens roasting on the grill alongside ruby red new onions and potatoes. It is now more important than ever to be sure to buy produce certified organic, especially strawberries and root vegetables as they retain the most chemicals as they are applied to the plants and earth being low to or under soil. With the passage of the Monsanto Protection Act, (boo!!) you can be assured that whatever you buy that is not certified organic is grown with and contains in their DNA massive amounts of pesticides and herbicides. I prefer to not eat raid and round up so if you feel the same, stick to organic as at this point they still are not allowed, by law to be genetically modified for pest and weed resistance. You will not be able to read on a label if it is GMO or not any time soon. When in doubt about what you are feeding yourself or your family best rule of thumb is go organic. Almost stepped on a rattlesnake today on the Lafayette Ridge Trail in Briones! So exciting and pretty early to boot but we are ever grateful to share the trail with the local animals, flora and fauna. Hiking and wildflowers are at a season peak, best time and temperatures of the season to walk mode so get out there and experience our hills to their fullest and you, your butt and your waistline will not regret it. Sautéed Fava Beans 2 cups cleaned fava beans, released from both shells 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic or green garlic 1 teaspoon good extra virgin olive oil 1 lemon, zested Salt and pepper to taste Heat olive oil on a sauté pan and add the garlic. Sauté for a few minutes and add fava’s and lemon peel. Season w/ salt and pepper. Serves 4. Spring Greens w/ Strawberries, Almonds and Basil 1 pound assorted spring greens 6 leaves of basil, chopped one half cup of chopped, raw almonds one cup sliced fresh strawberries zest from 1 lemon juice of 1 lemon one quarter of a cup of balsamic vinegar one quarter of a cup of extra virgin olive oil 3 T grated dry jack cheese kosher salt to taste Toss lettuces, basil, almonds and strawberries in a large salad bowl. Add zest and juice of lemon and sprinkle the oil and vinegar on and toss well. Season with salt and garnish with cheese. Serves 4.

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