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September 30th, 2008

Night time in the Garden

bio_lesliedThe temperature cooled off enough that I could open my bedroom window tonight. As I laid in bed I smelled a heady fragrance wafting in through the window and had to get up and investigate this.  It was my Moonflowers, Ipomoea alba, beginning to bloom.  “About time,” I thought. “I planted you guys months ago.”  Then I scooted inside to get my  camera.

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Across from this arbor the white eggplants had fallen over; they are so heavy with fruit. I remember now that I haven’t picked them in over a week.  They look a little shabby and I’m wondering if the plants will stand up again if I pluck off the eggplants?

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Tomorrow night will be Baba ganouj night and I’ll have to remember to write our North Carolina Test Gardener, Don Boekelheide, and thank him for this eggplant recipe, which was conveniently posted here on Sep. 8th.  Don’t we have a useful site?  I think so.

Since I was wandering through the garden with my camera I snapped a photo of my chives.  If I don’t snip off the blossoms soon I will have chive seeds sprouting everywhere.  But in all things, timing is everything and I don’t want to cut them while they are still so pretty.

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These pictures were taken about midnight with a flash.  But, I can actually see these white plants at night quite easily and they are nice to have in a garden.  Especially if you live in the desert where gardening at night is better than during the sizzling heat of the day.  I wish I were a better photographer, but I think you can tell how nice it is for me to have some white accent plants to enjoy at night.

September 10th, 2008

Drip, Drip, Drip

bio_lesliedHi All, Leslie in Las Vegas here.

I thought you would like to see how I irrigate several of my desert garden beds.

This Netafim irrigation hose has one pre-installed emitter every 12 inches inside the hose.  I place the lengths of hose about 12″ apart and I’m burying them 2″ deep.  This is the newest bed I built and soon the older beds in the garden will be changed over from individual drip emitters to this Netafim irrigation.

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With the irrigation buried in the soil the water is directed to the root zone of the plant and the soil surface stays dry . . . unless I overwater.  This sub-surface drip irrigation causes the roots to grow down into cooler soil, helpful to plants in the hot Mojave Desert.  No water is lost to evaporation and the irrigation is not exposed to the desert sun.

Raised bed gardening is much easier in the desert because I can contain my ‘good’ soil and keep it from mixing with the native dirt.  I have a soils company mix up a special blend of soil for my raised beds and they dump it in the driveway, from there we wheelbarrow it over to the beds.  With this blend of humus rich soil I only need to have it 6 inches deep over our native dirt.  The nutrients from it will wick down into the native dirt as the bed is watered and this will help to remediate the native soil below.

This bed is 13 feet x 13 feet, if I was better with math it would have been bigger.  I’ll probably have it finished tomorrow and begin planting it with my cool season veggies and my newly hybridized daylilies, (that should have been transplanted in the spring).

After this bed is planted I will have to surface water it with the hose, now and then for a couple of weeks, until the new seedling’s roots grow down to where the irrigation is buried.  Right now the new plants have shallow roots and many of their roots are near the surface of the pots . . . they have to be trained down into the new beds before I can  let the surface roots dry out.

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When the bed fills in with growth it will look similar to these beds, except there won’t be a shade structure installed in it.  It is great having a place to sit while I garden . . . another good reason for raised beds.

September 8th, 2008

Baba ganouj – Don's version

bio_donThis is my baba ganouj recipe, from Lebanon, but widespread through Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and a bunch of other Mediterranean countries, I think. It’s more like hummus since it has tahini as a key ingredient:

Ingredients

1 big or equivalent medium sized eggplants
juice of half a lemon (use the rest to make tahini sauce)
1/3 c of tahini (sesame paste – staple around out veggie household – get a good brand)
a clove of garlic (to taste)
Dash of salt
For garnish, dipping (high quality) olive oil, chopped up parsley

Prep

There are two ways to prep the eggplant, and it changes taste. The easy way is to simply bake it in the oven until it is soft. I usually cut it in half, put it cut side down on a cookie sheet with olive oil on it, and let it cook, about 15 or 20 minutes until soft.

The alternative is to use the traditional technique, which gives the ganouj a markedly smoky flavor (some people hate it, others demand it). The American kitchen way to do this is simply lay the eggplant on a burner and let it char. This also takes about 15 minutes – it needs to get soft inside. Here’s a thing from the hummus blog showing how.

Either way, smoky or non, you essentially let the eggplant cool down after it cooks, scoop out the inside (I don’t leave the skin, but I don’t bother to fish out little pieces either).

Pass the garlic through a press and add it, the lemon juice and the tahini to the eggplant. Then mix it up and moosh it up good. You can use a food precessor, but don’t over do it – make it smooth, but not paste-like.

Serve it in a bowl, garnish with a bit of olive oil on the top (make a little indentation) and parsley. Scooping it up with pieces of pita bread is the way to go at our house. It keeps well for at least 3-4 days in the frig, if it lasts that long.

Make a little homemade hummus, get some good falafels, make some fool and some tabouli,  set it out with the baba, and you have perfect Middle Eastern feast. Slice up cukes and tomatoes on the side.

One of my favorite things is a simple tahini dressing to go with everything:

The other half of that lemon’s juice.
1/4 c more or less of tahini
Garlic clove (or 1/2 clove, depending on how much you like garlic)
Water
Pinch of salt

Put the tahini in a little bowl, squeeze in the lemon juice, press in the garlic, and mix. It’s like magic – it becomes a lumpy thick paste, partly solid, with a whitish color in places. Then slowly add water, little by little, until you get the consistency you want – really runny for a sauce to pour on falafels, kind-of thick as a dip. Salt to taste (very lightly).

I don’t use cumin regularly in these dishes (though I really like it for beans, etc – it’s a great spice) because it has such a marked taste, and because when I ate a lot of hummus and baba – back when I lived in Africa in the Peace Corps, and before that the Middle East – it wasn’t spiced with cumin. At this point in life, I taste memories, too. I will, though, sometimes grind in a bit of fresh pepper.






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