Orchid Babies!

Orchid babies! My orchids just had babies! And I am on a steep learning curve on taking care of them.

I was at my Hardware store of choice last winter when I spotted this Dendrobium orchid on sale, from 16 to 12 euros. It was still pricey for an orchid, but I couldn’t resist its wonderful yellow flowers, and so splurged.

I was soon disappointed when not more than three weeks after purchase, the flowers began to fall off, and the orchid seemed to wilt. I was almost ready to throw them out, when I noticed that it was growing new leaves, or flowers, I wasn’t so certain back then.

So while waiting it out, more leaves began to sprout. Then roots. Ta-DAA! New orchids! I was so excited when it sprouted four babies!

So far I’ve made the mistake of using the wrong potting mix. I chose the cheapest one, which was a few cents less expensive than the top of the line one. It consisted of sawdust with a few pine chips here and there. Big mistake! Two of the babies started getting water rot from the base, I hope I was able to save them in time, but I am not so sure. One keiki is still attached to the mother, and another one is sprouting from the Dendrobium cane.

orchidAll in all, this is a very good year for orchids. Since last year I have finally found the “sweet spot” for the orchids in my apartment where the orchids do very well. As you could see in this picture, my Phalenopsis orchid has sprouted new flowers, after three years of dormancy. They used to be in the living room, but they prefer the bright afternoon light offered by the playroom.

That’s the thing with house plants. The place where you want them to be isn’t necessarily the place they want to be. And boy, they will make it known. Leaves start to fall off, they won’t flower, that kind of stuff.  So move around your house plants, and wait for them to tell you they like it where they are

Cherry, Cherry Cherries!

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This year is turning out to be a good year for fruits. It’s not so hot, not so dry, and the rains have come at the right time. And because of the hot spring/cool summer we are having in Germany this year, the sweet cherry and sour cherry varieties arrived almost at the same time, instead of the sour varieties coming in this July. This may differ from region to region, so I cannot speak for the whole country.

So I have a bucket full of cherries. The darker ones are sour cherries from the backyard, while the lighter ones are from the tree I spoke of last year. I believe the tree is a Royal Ann cherry, but I am not sure what kind of cherry is the one from our backyard. It is not really sour, it’s more tart-sweetish, and quite juicy.

I’ve made three jars of jam, and one wonderful cherry chutney so far. I hope to make cherry cupcakes today, and maybe freeze the rest, if I am not able to harvest any more this weekend.

What amazes me is the difference of the cherries from the backyard tree from this year and last year. It was pruned this spring, and the cherries are huge and juicy! I wish I could learn more about tree pruning, but I guess that is for when I have more time.

 

 

The Balcony is A- bloomin’

Summer is finally here, and I am so glad I was able to organize the balcony using little pockets of time here and there. I think this year, my seventh in tiny balcony gardening, has shown that my collected experience  has finally paid off. The time used from planning until implementation has definitely improved, and spent less money than I have in the previous years, since I already have most of what I need, using seeds from previous years.

 

I mean, look at this strawberry, one from the several plants growing in little boxes on the railing. It is hard to believe that I scraped the seed of this plant from the chopping board two years ago after making jam!

This year would be a special test on my tiny gardening skills, as I have tomatoes, eggplant, and a potato plant all on my balcony. It is generally not recommended to plant nightshade relatives all close to each other, but I couldn’t resist experimenting if I could really grow potato out of a grow bag, and the eggplant unexpectedly grew from seed this year, after three years of trying and failing. I have tried to situate the eggplant and potato in such a way that they are closed from three sides, and only the side where they get sunlight remained open, to minimize possible cross infection of blight, if it does occur.

The onions are doing very well, and I guess i will never be able to grow ramsons in a box. Fourth year in a row that they haven’t bloomed. But otherwise this promises to be a great harvest year

Pechay is a Winter Vegetable…Who Knew?!!

Germany is having some crazy climate change weather as of late. 2013 dumped a pile of snow on us until May, while this winter is waaay too warm=no snow. Not that I mind, but the grousing of worried Germans exclaiming WHERE’S OUR WINTER???? is quite loud.

So I got a surprise crop of pechay from stray seeds that scattered and sprouted spontaneously from last summer. I thought that they would freeze anyway, so I didn’t bother to pull them up. But the unusually mild winter meant that they thrived all though December. The cold weather also meant that it took them a longer time to sprout.

I bet that people living in a place with mild winters, like Italy or France, or even Hamburg, would be well supplied with pechay. No need for a greenhouse! I am very much encouraged by this discovery and have already turned that beautiful plant in the picture into Adobong Pechay.

Seeds Anyone?

Seeds everywhere. The end of the gardening season always means the putting away of seeds for the next year. I have accumulated too many chive, coriander, and Italian flat-leaf parsley for next year, so I am giving them away to anyone who wants a packet.

Send me an e-mail at my contact details or leave a message at the comments and I will ship anywhere in the world. I am also willing to trade!

Erntedankfest

It’s time to wind down this year’s farming season with an harvest festival. Although this year I am quite glad that I am not dependent on my garden for sustenance. This year’s tomatoes are quite good, but this year’s potatoes, apples, pears, pumpkins did not quite make it due to the weird weather this year.

.erntedankfest Despite that, a year of hard work and cameraderie is always a cause for celebration. The Pear Cake made a debut, along with a batch of Taboule. The pears were a gift from a tree, and the veggies and herbs in the salad came from my balcony and the garden. Along with home-made elderberry soda, it was a great way to use what grew this year.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay so long. It was great to meet the new people in our ever growing community garden, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the fruits of the summer this fall and winter.

This Year’s Harvest

This year’s harvest is quite a disappointment. We had a long winter, then floods, then a very dry spell, all at the wrong times! The potatoes didn’t and couldn’t get water just when they needed them, and thus are quite small. My tomato plants in my balcony haven’t been generous either, though the ones in the garden are doing quite well.

The picture above is the first salad made from this year’s first tomato harvest from my balcony and the garden. Tomato mozzarella salad is a classic of German kitchens, and is normally seasoned with olive oil or balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil leaves. Since I couldn’t decide between vinegar or oil, I used both!

I also got zucchini and squash blossoms too, and with that the garden sponsored fried zucchini blossoms. Today’s Italian night was magnifico!

The Little Critters That Live in My Kitchen

Hi! Meet my pet Fifi or Fluffy, I haven’t decided on a name yet. It is my sour dough starter. Yes, it is alive, and it is a pet. It is a living organism, It has to be fed and cared for, so how can it not be? It requires more attention than my plants, but less than my son. This sour dough was born three weeks ago, two days after mixing. This batch of sour dough is more active than my old one, I really think that the summer heat makes for a frisky bugger.

How active you say? The picture above was taken after Fifi’s morning meal. And here is a photo of Fifi in the afternoon:

It has doubled in size, meaning it has eaten through its food.

Pet Food

Pet Food

Fifi can tell me that it’s hungry. Yes, it can. All you have to do is smell. Caring for a living object requires the use of the senses, and Fifi is no different. If Fifi starts smelling sour, it means it is time for a feeding. And boy, does it eat a lot. It has been going through its food so fast, I go through a kilo of flour a week.

The not so nice part is that I have to throw away 80% of Fifi before every feeding. That is a whole pile of Fifi going into the compost pit, but unless I want to make the “sour dough that ate Milwaukee,” it is a necessary evil.

It is really strange that something can literally come from nothing, from the bacteria in the flour and my not-so-sanitary kitchen. I would like to thank Michael Pollan, if he is reading this (heh heh), and my cooking friends (please visit their links at the right). Without them I would have given up on the sour dough bread project.

Anyway, the recipe for sour dough starter from Michael Pollan’s Cooked is: Mix 50 g of whole grain flour with 50 g all purpose flour with 100 g of warm water. The water should just be slightly warmer than your hand. Mix it, and re-mix as often as you remember to do it throughout the days until you notice that the dough has become alive. That means that it has started to smell sour, or bubbles have formed on the surface, or the dough has doubled in size. This can take two days to one week, depending on the weather. I once used rye flour and it built a crust over the surface, quite neat! After it has come alive, feed at least once a day by throwing out 80 percent of the mixture and adding the same proportion of flours and water as the recipe above.

The best thing about Fifi that you can put it to sleep. No, I don’t mean into the good night kind of sleep. I just added 50 g of whole grain flour and 50 g all purpose flour, mixed it and put it in the fridge. I can wake it up again by taking it out, and repeating the process by throwing out 80 percent and feeding it twice daily until it is alive. So I said good night to Fifi and it is now in cryogenic sleep. Weird huh?

Fiori di Zucca

So, as you know, my zucchini plant is in full bloom, and during my personal Italian night, I made Fiori di Zucca, or filled zucchini flowers, battered then deep-fried to a crisp.

Now, I first read about this dish in Eat, Pray, Love. (Yes, I will own up to reading that book and liking it. So there.) When I visited Rome for the first time in September last year in my own Eat, Pray, Love moment, I ordered fried artichokes and zucchini blossoms. I really liked it. It seemed simple enough to make.

anchovyMy kababayan Kuya Francis (my friend, not only from Facebook), who works as a chef, gave me a small jar of anchovies preserved in oil during my second visit last December.

So now that I was all set, I bought mozzarella cheese, fizzy water, and downloaded this recipe. Like their recommendation, I got firm mozzarella chesse. Mozzarella di Bufala, or Buffalo Mozarella, tends to have a creamy/milky interior. I didn’t want oil splatter, so I went for normal mozzarella.

Mixing the egg with fizzy water made the liquid very foamy, to the point that I asked myself is this normal? But it made the crust really crunchy.

As I said, really easy to make, and it is a great appetizer. Think of this as zucchini tempura. However, this has to be eaten quickly. I prepared seven flowers for myself, eating the last ones prepared first. Eating the first flowers at the end, I noticed that the crust had turned soggy. But it was the same taste of sweet, salty, and creamy all at once. I highly recommend this to anyone. Up next, make Fiori di Zucca with chili tinapa!