Celery Flats

growing celery indoorsIf memory serves, POD’s not-too-distant relatives toiled in southwest Michigan’s celery flats. Fast forward a few generations, travel several hundred miles to the east, bunker in for yet another nippy weekend and growing celery indoors doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. growing celery indoorsThis Pennsport gardener and her trusty knife-wielding sidekick hacked off the end of a nice fresh bunch and stuck it in a bowl of warm water. With any luck, fresh shoots and roots will emerge in a week or so.

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South Philly High Arboretum — Donate Now!

South Philly HighI’m totally cribbing this entry from an email a friend of mine sent to me a couple of weeks ago:
It’s raining, it’s pouring and there’s a special gardening project that I’m really excited about. Help create and arboretum at South Philadelphia High School by donating those Recyclebank points that you’ll never use anyway!
The SPHS arboretum project is especially great for three reasons:
  1.  It’s totally student designed
  2. It will feature native plants grown in Philly at Bartam’s Garden, America’s first botanic garden
  3. It will add some much needed natural beauty in a neighborhood otherwise lacking in green space
 So, dust off that Recyclebank login and password and donate some points before March 15! For every 250 points donated, the project will receive $1… so please give freely. There’s only one day left to reach the goal. Plus, if you’re able to donate 2,000 points or more,the Streets Department will gift you a jumbo recycling container.
Here’s the link to donate those points.
Spread the word!

All Thumbs

Tom ThumbHey, gardeners, it’s March! And nothing says spring like sunshine, cold-reddened fingers, and drippy noses. And while the long-range weather report isn’t filling this gardener with a ton of enthusiasm, it’s good enough, one hopes, for the newly purchased Tom Thumb pea seeds. Courtesy of Greensgrow and the Seed Savers Exchange.

Both the seed packet and the University of Tom Thumb 2Tennessee claim Mr. Thumb can withstand hard frosts and temperatures as low as 20°. While this feels like an exceptionally cold winter for we weenie Philadelphians, here’s betting that we won’t see temperatures that cruel  until next January.

And Plants On Deck is super-excited about this particular pea. It’s a tiny dwarf heirloom, first grown in the late 1800s in Philly, that purportedly produces s-tons of peas in cramped quarters. Sounds too good to be true. We’ll know in 50-55 days.

The Tale of the Heroic Kale

There once was an enterprising city squirrel. Mangy and distrustful, the demonic little rodent looked up, down, and scurried onto a little blue deck, located just blocks from the Delaware’s mighty river shores. The wind was icy but the twitchy devil was warmed by the doughnut he had stolen from a hungry worker down the alley.

Knowing that his treasure would surely taste sweeter after a few months buried in POD’s cold soil, he dug. And dug. And dug. The neurotic monster ripped the poor over-wintering kale from its chilly home and entombed his tasty find.

And the sad little kale,  rudely disrupted from hibernation, lay on its side, roots exposed to the brutal Philly elements.  The demonic little rodent twitched a twitchy smile and scampered off, satisfied with his destruction.

Months later, after the winter’s most brutal days had passed and spring was telegraphing her signs of life, POD’s tender braved the swirling winds and climbed the sladder to the little blue deck.

Oh, the carnage! Oh, poor little kale! But wait? Were its leaves still tender, supple, and green? A survivor!

Cradling the damaged and forgotten kale, she made her way back down the treacherous sladder and lovingly transplanted the heroic kale to the barren blue window box overlooking a busy Pennsport street. The kale, like the poor hungry dude’s quite possibly powdered sugar doughnut,  had survived.

Heroic Kale
Heroic Kale

Gardeners, Start Your Seeds!

Starting Oregano SeedsEach year, POD tends to jump the gun and ends up planting too early. Determined to avoid false starts, last frost dates for South Philadelphia have been carefully compiled and averaged and a target plants-on-deck date has been established.

What does all that mean? Basically, Philadelphia’s average last frost date ranges between April 14 and May 15. After consulting the Magic 8 Ball,  POD’s declaring April 20, 2010 this year’s last frost and hopes to move things on deck between April 24 and May 1.

Why is this important? Well, it’s time to start (some of) your seedlings. In POD’s case, basil, oregano, tomato, and pepper seeds — all of which should be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost — are hitting the dirt.

Composting!

Bennet's Compost
kitten investigates compost

As the first slush falls from Philadelphia’s seemingly ever-gray skies, it’s tough to think happy gardening thoughts.

Happily, though, thanks to a tip from November’s Grid magazine, all of POD’s degradable kitchen scraps will find their way into a spiffy five-gallon bucket, courtesy of Bennett Compost.

With any luck, a bucket or two of rich compost will find its way back to POD.

Eight Weeks and Growing

Brussels Sprouting
Brussels Sprouting

The Brussels sprout experiment continues. These guys are exactly two months old and appear to be thriving. Whether or not they’ll get around to producing, only time will tell.

Generally Zone 7 gardeners plant sprouts in March for an August harvest, but the flavor benefits from cooler temps and honestly, during the summer months, container space is just too precious to hand over to a single 3-4″ stalk of sprouting heads.

The seedlings exposed to the most unobstructed sun (like this one here) are certainly doing the best. The seedling tucked among the flourishing parsnips is about half this guy’s size.

Worms!

Okay, so, POD was recently inspired by a Graceful Gardens-designed kitchen garden. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s already October; but this fledgling garden was stuffed with beautiful herbs and greens — making me realize that those empty five-gallon buckets, sitting all forlorn-looking at the corner of the deck, were really such a waste.

So, off to the South Philly Lowes POD goes. I know, shame on me.

Two kale sets have now joined the thriving chard, parsnips, lettuce and the trooper poblano.

Of course, six, count ’em six, little squishy worms had to be picked off the undersides of the holey, half-devoured leaves before they could be popped into the waiting buckets.

Serves me right. Be forewarned.

Eating Eggplants

Eggplants

Apologies to POD’s mother, but early memories of eggplants bring thoughts of bowling to mind, rather than eating. Those gargantuan, spongy, fibrous, gooey, tasteless monstrosities were more suited for tossing at pins (say, the stringy wrist-thick wild asparagus that grew in the field) than sticking in your mouth.

All that changed with the discovery of Thai eggplants at Philly’s Number 1 Oriental Supermarket at 6th and Washington. These little guys actually have flavor of their own, possess a satisfying crunch, and are completely devoid of spongy goo.

Although this is only the second meal produced from the Udmalbet and Bambinos, it’s a keeper.

Adapted from Casa Moro (2004) by Sam and Sam Clark

3  udmalbet and 6 baby bambino eggplants
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4 tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbs pine nuts
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbs balsamic with a pinch of sugar
1-2 tbs fresh oregano, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450

1) Slice eggplants into cubes the size of sugar cubes, then sprinkle with the fine salt. Leave to sit in a colander for at least 20 minutes, then blot dry with paper towel. Toss with half the olive oil, spread out on a large baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes until they start to brown and are completely tender.
2) Put the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium to low heat. Add the onion, pine nuts and a pinch of salt to the pan and soften for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3) Add the garlic and dried oregano and cook until the garlic, onions and pine nuts have taken on an amber color — be careful not to burn anything.
4) Add the cooked eggplant to the pan, increase the heat slightly and stir briskly for a minute or two.
5) Stir in the vinegar and most of the fresh oregano and cook for two minutes more, until some of the pungency of the vinegar has gone. Taste for seasoning, and serve with the remaining fresh oregano scattered on top.