Miriam's Garden: She'll have blue and red thumbs

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In my garden lots of things are happening. I devoured the first pods of green peas the other morning. Sweet, crisp little nuggets. I can't wait to gather enough for a meal or at least a bigger snack.

Near them the garlic has sprouted curving green hoops, called scapes. They need to be trimmed off. Some I'll thinly slice and saute in olive oil to season leafy greens or for an omelet. Scapes have a mild garlic flavor, like green garlic, but in order to get green garlic you need to pull up the entire plant.

Removing the scapes doesn't hurt the plant; instead, the thinking is that removing them will concentrate the plant's energy into making fat garlic cloves.

Berries are growing bountifully, and I have high hopes for a wonderful finger-stained harvest. David pushed back the fence line and expanded our raspberry patch this year, adding new red and black cultivated types. Raspberries also multiply themselves, which is handy. They do need to be pruned and thinned and kept tidy, and we're trying to get better at this. Fat berries are starting to form, and one has begun to turn a hopeful shade of red. Unfortunately, some insect has discovered this ripening berry as well, and it's been disappearing, lobe by lobe, throughout the day.

The blueberry bush seems to have grown taller overnight. It now reaches over the top of my head. There are two blueberry bushes, although at one time we planted four. You have to plant at least two different varieties so they can cross-pollinate. Or maybe so they're not lonely. The branches are full of waxy green berries, almost about to turn, although it does seem a little early.

This morning after a desperately needed rain, David shrouded the bushes with a tent of white row cover. Essential because the moment the berries begin to "blue-up," the birds start feasting. Overnight the berries will be gone. Large commercial growers net an entire area to keep the hungry birds away.

I'm not sharing these blueberries if I can help it. Because we have only the two bushes, I still will buy blueberries at the store. When they get really cheap I freeze them in zip-top bags to make pancakes and muffins and my mother's blueberry coffee cake in the winter. But nothing has the flavor of fresh-picked blueberries. Both more sour and yet sweeter than store-bought berries, with a deeper, woodsy flavor.

The berries grow around the edges of the garden beds, which still are a work in progress. The bottom bed is the most "happening," with chard and lettuce, carrots, peas, beets and spinach and all those rows of onions and garlic. The middle bed is waiting for the tomatoes, which are still in pots in the greenhouse-laundry room. I've started taking the little plants out for an hour or so each day to harden them off -- get them acclimated. And there still are more rows to fill.

Never fear. I have seeds. My favorite FedEx driver came by today and gave me a package of stuff I'd ordered from Seeds of Change. Aztec Half-Runner beans, Texas Hummingbird sage, holy basil. Our dogs, Eli and Lark, love him, too. He brings them biscuits.

Lots of Berries Shortcake

PG tested

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cups and leveled off
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine table salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon for brushing
For the berries
  • About 3/4 pound ripe strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced, mixed with 2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (let stand 15 minutes), then fold in 1 to 2 half-pint baskets raspberries or blueberries or one of each
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

    Put flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in food processor. Pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In small bowl, beat egg, buttermilk and 1/4 cup heavy cream with fork. Add to food processor and pulse to make damp, crumbly dough.

    Scrape dough into prepared pan. Working it as little as possible with fingertips and a spatula, press fairly evenly in pan. It will be crumbly and rough-looking, which is fine. Brush with 1 tablespoon cream and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

    Bake until browned at top, just starting to shrink from edges and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Turn out and invert onto a plate or board. Cut into wedges and serve with berries and cream.

    Makes 6 servings.

    -- Adapted from Fine Cooking.com

    food - recipes

Miriam Rubin: mmmrubin@gmail.com.


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