Garden in Winter

In the garden this morning, watering again, not my usual practice in winter, I realized that I hadn’t wished you a happy holiday! It is sometimes hard in the California winters to get into the spirit of the season. It was slow in coming this year, and yet, it has so far been lovely.

Sometimes we just feel like sleeping through it all, just like a dormant plant. Watching a winter garden grow is a more challenging aspect of gardening, too. Remembering to protect the plants during frost, to water when its unusually dry like it is now, or forgetting all about it when it rains a lot and not wanting to wade through the wet to weed all pose challenges during a winter season in the garden.

I find that the frosty mornings woo me out into the garden to take photos, not to care for the plants. It’s an inspiring beauty to see the sparkle of the frost on the plants and garden furniture, as I watch the foggy covering turn to steam as the sun comes out and melts the frost on the wooden fence.

The baby plants need more care and require covering until they are 4″ high. My friend, Angela, who has the best Meyer lemons that I use in my Silky Lemon Pie and other goodies, has shown me her solution of a hand-made hoop cover. The farmer from Ledesma farm told me at the farmer’s market that he just uses a cloth above the plants to protect them from the top. That seems like an easier solution to me, so next year I plan to have some made out of the PVC pipe and old sheets that I have laying around. Maybe I’ll find a porous material that will let some of the moisture through. Not sure yet.

Looking ahead to the new year and the cooking classes we are starting brings excitement for the coming year. I hope you are taking time during this season to hibernate a bit and find the inspiration you are carrying inside of you.  Happy New Year!

frosty geranium

winter tipped strawberry leaves

frosty broccoli leaves

Hit and Miss Gardening

My first desire to garden hit me when I was nine years old. We had a large yard in suburban Kansas covered with grass. My parents told me I could use a back corner to do what I wish with it. The problem was, that noone helped me. I remember standing there with a shovel trying to dig out the zoysia grass to start a garden. Obviously, I failed.

As the years went by I found other like-minded people who I was blessed to garden with. This became my study, my learning ground. I’m not a master gardener and in fact, have taken few classes. I’m what I call a Hit and Miss gardener. I throw seeds out, I plant seedlings, I grow seedlings and I wait to see what will happen each year. Of course, I have learned a lot through experience over the years. The garden is a mysterious place, however, and even when I do what I think is the right thing to do, I end up with a variety of results.

To be a gardener, I must maintain a certain sense of inquiry and risk. Each season I keep hoping for something edible to grow. As you’ve seen in previous posts, one of this year’s surprises is my purple broccoli.

This broccoli (all of them) has grown to amazing heights and seems even happier now that we had frost for a couple of nights.The purple has returned to the stems and leaves and is just gorgeous! It still hasn’t given me a head to eat and doesn’t look like its going to. But, as I enjoy the beauty of each plant even when it is different than expected, I am waiting to see what will happen.

Purple Broccoli Stems

There’s a time each season, when I get a strong urge to rip out what’s growing and start clearing the yard. As a primarily intuitive person, I allow myself to do that (unless Ofer yells at me to stop). I’ve found that leaving in the volunteers that are happy, like this tomato that still looks good in spite of the cold, I am able to take advantage of information they provide for the next time.

A Happy Volunteer

As with many people, I am less experienced at the winter garden. I tend not to start it early enough. And then, when it gets cold and rainy, I prefer to stay inside. When we first moved here, I placed the garden too far back into the yard and completely forgot about the broccoli I had planted. I have learned to listen more closely to what the energy of the yard is calling for, so I can now grow more successfully throughout the garden. Choosing the placement of the plants is an interesting inquiry and can be assisted through meditation, feng shui and intuitive design techniques.

It’s still hit or miss though. So, don’t be upset if something doesn’t grow well. Maybe it just needs to be moved to a better place or started a little earlier. Maybe more or less water or sunshine. A little shade goes a long way for some plants. Paying attention to where the plant originates makes a huge difference. In this area, we are blessed with weather that allows year-round growing and Mediterranean plants  (like many culinary herbs) do well here. Personally, I prefer to get as many natives as I can to keep the watering needs low and the likelihood of success higher.

The best attitude for me as a gardener is to feel comfortable with experimenting, not always getting it right, being willing to try again and gain my joy from the process and enjoying the successes where they manifest!

A Hit and Miss Gardener.

Winter is Coming, Holidays are Here

The weather has turned cooler. Beautiful, crisp air with a loving sun shining down upon us. Perfect weather for taking a long hike in the surrounding hills or weeding out the tiny grasses popping up between the broccoli in the garden. The brassicas love this weather and I hope it will provide an abundant crop this year. Tonight it’s supposed to get below zero, so watering the plants is a good way to keep them from damage.

As a no-fuss gardener, I won’t trouble myself to cover the citrus trees. Hopefully, they will be fine with a night of cold. I’ve planted them in such a way as to give them protection, so I imagine all will be fine as in previous years.

Most of the leaves have fallen now and a lovely carpet of red greets me at the front door. Finally, I felt it was best to sweep them aside to avoid tracking too many into the house.

This weather turns my mind to baking and soups for supper. Orders for our holiday baking sales are slowly coming in and lots of time is spent enjoying the smell of freshly baked cookies in the kitchen. If you are interested in putting in a holiday order, send me a note and I’ll take your order directly. Please note our Ordering Policies at the end of this section.

Here’s what we have available:

Midnight Moons (Gluten-free cookies)…………………$9/dozen   (Sweetened with molasses and honey) 

Tahini Moons (Gluten-free cookies)……………………….$8/dozen     (Sweetened with brown rice and maple syrups)

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies(1/2 pound)………….$5 each

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie

Silky Chocolate Pie…………………………………………………….$14 each

Regular or Gluten-Free Vegan (Sweetened with brown rice and barley malt syrups)

Silky Chocolate Pie

Chocolate Fudge…………………………………………….$4 / ½lb. ……$8/1 lb.

Chocolate Fudge with Walnuts.………………….$5 / ½lb…….$10/1 lb.


Pure Vanilla Extracts:

Pure Mexican Vanilla – Grown in southern Mexico, Mexican vanilla is considered the highest quality. Its flavor is deep and sweet with a mild spice and is more subtle than the Madagascar. This vanilla is perfect in moderately flavored baked goods like chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake, banana bread or muffins.                    2 oz. bottle $6, 4 oz. bottle $11

Pure Madagascar Vanilla – Often called Bourbon vanilla, the Madagascar vanilla is grown on the islands of Madagascar off the coast of Africa. This vanilla is earthy, sweet and richly flavored. We love this vanilla with chocolate everything – cookies, cakes, ice cream!
2 oz. bottle $5, 4 oz. bottle $9

Pure Tahitian Vanilla – This bean is lighter than the others with a fruity, floral flavor. Lovely drizzled over fresh fruit, added to yogurt, in lightly flavored baked goods like lemon bars, pie shells, dairy-free ice creams or sorbets.                 2 oz. bottle $4, 4 oz. bottle $7

Organic Tahini –  16 oz. $7, 8 oz. $4

 Ordering Policies: Order 5 – 7 days ahead of pickup date. Pickup on requested date with cash payment (we have change).

Egg Curry

Always looking for a variety of flavors to enjoy at the end of the day results in experimenting regularly with new foods. This week alone I am serving Japanese, Thai and Indian style meals for dinner.

Last winter, this egg curry was a delicious way to cook fresh eggs for a simple winter meal. Japanese soups are also wonderfully warming and filled with nutrition.  We like to add seaweed to a miso broth (Ofer has made a hearty red miso at home that is wonderful with little bits of soybean left in to bite into) for a simple addition to a quick meal.

Here’s a recipe from my cookbook that will definitely warm you up this season. This picture shows the different seaweeds in the soup. For a heartier flavor, use the red miso instead of white. Serve with some sushi for a complete meal.


Seaweed Soup

6 cups water 1 sheet nori seaweed
2” x 2” piece of kombu seaweed ½ sheet dried laver seaweed
2 small carrots, sliced 1 onion, in pieces (not chopped)
4 dried shiitake (black) mushrooms 1-2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
10 oz. firm silken tofu white miso, 1 tsp. per bowl
1 scallion, chopped (optional)

1. Put sesame oil in large soup pot.

2. Saute onion and celery in oil over med-hi heat for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add carrots and saute for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add water and kombu, cut into small pieces.

5. Add mushrooms.

6. Cook for 20 minutes over low heat.

7.   Remove the mushrooms, take off and discard the stems, slice into thin strips and return

to the soup.

8. Cut tofu into small squares and add to the soup.

9. Fold nori in half, three times and cut into strips with scissors into the soup pot.

10. Cut the laver into small pieces over the soup pot.

11. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes.

12. To serve, put miso in individual bowl. Ladle a little broth into bowl and mix in miso.

13. Fill bowl with soup. Add scallions if desired.

Feel free to add more vegetables to make it a one pot meal. Kabocha, a Japanese squash, would be a great addition. And Turnip greens, an often overlooked item, are delicious in soups.

Kabocha Squash

Turnip Greens