Nutritious Spring Greens

In the spring, my garden is popping! The naturalized greens and herbs are all over the place. Nutritious delicacies are overflowing with vibrant life! We love to harvest these happy volunteers and delight our winter weary bodies with the cleansing taste of spring. We especially love the Mallow and Mustard that volunteer each spring. Both of these plants are naturalized after being brought over from overseas.

Mallow, also known as Cheeseweed for its leaf shape, is a mild laxative, diuretic, anti-inflammatory with soothing demulcent and expectorant properties than help to clear mucus from the body. No wonder it grows in spring! Originally sweetened with honey by the Egyptians, the mallow root derived mucilage was then later transformed into the French confection we know today as “the marshmallow.”

Mustard greens are rich in anti-oxidants and phytonutrients. Mustard boasts a wide variety of vitamin and minerals (B complex, A , C, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and manganese), as well as, delicious flavor!

Crispy Green Chips

Spring Greens Chips

Spring Greens Chips

30 leaves of mustard greens and mallow leaves

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. Basil vinegar

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 Tbsp. oregano

Prepared Greens

Prepared Greens

1 tsp. marjoram

½ tsp. cayenne

Unbaked greens

Unbaked greens

1 tsp. seasalt or to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 300ᵒ.
  2. If necessary, gently rinse the leaves and spin dry. You can use other greens for this recipe (kale, chard, broccoli). If the center ribs are thick, be sure to remove them first.
  3. Pour oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Whisk thoroughly to mix.
  4. Add the leaves and mix gently with your hands or a spatula until leaves are coated.
  5. Add the spices and repeat mixing.
  6. On a large baking sheet, lay a layer of parchment paper.
  7. Lay leaves individually onto the paper as flat as possible. A little overlap is okay, but keep it to a minimum.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
  9. When cool enough to touch, store chips in a paper towel lined large plastic container so they can lay flat.
  10. Repeat steps 7, 8 and 9 until leaves are finished baking.
Mallow

Mallow

Parsley

Parsley

Mustard

Mustard

fennel

fennel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another delicious spring garden staple in our home is the Spring Veggie Broth. This is a cleansing broth that includes any edible we currently have sprouting up in the spring. This recipe allows you to buy ingredients from the local farmer’s market, so you can have a similar version at home. The hijiki is a type of seaweed and adds minerals. Some people don’t like the flavor, so it is optional, and of course, doesn’t grow in the garden!

Spring Veggie Broth

Broth Veggies

Broth Veggies

veggie broth

Uncooked veggie broth

½ bunch of celery

1 large carrot

1 bunch of parsley

Top of large fennel bulb

1 small burdock leaf

1 medium-sized bunch of chard

1 onion, with peel

Mix of greens – amaranth, mallow, wild mustard, cleavers – about 3 cups

½ c. hijiki (optional)

  1. Prepare ingredients by washing and cutting into large pieces.
  2. Put all ingredients in a large soup pot. Cover with water.
  3. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let sit, covered for half an hour.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the vegetables. Keep anything you want to munch on (carrots and hijiki are especially good this way.)
  6. Enjoy!

Living in Sync with Nature

What does it mean to be living in sync with nature?  Is it something only the wise-woman knows? Is there a way to begin to ascertain the feeling of nature? The busy rush, rush of modern life has had a profound impact on our  ability as individuals to feel connected with the earth, our food, our selves. Here are some descriptions of what each season may feel like:

Spring can be soft and gentle. Filled with hope, the person who is in sync with spring is open and flowing will manifest spring energy through tapping into creativity. This person is bursting forth with enthusiasm for what is coming next. On the other hand, a person stuck in spring is blowing irritation around and repeatedly starting over, without getting traction to move forward.

Baby purple cabbage

Baby purple cabbage

Narcissus

Narcissus

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Oxalis in spring

Shooting Stars

Shooting Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bee Love

Bee Love

 

Being in sync with summer means moving in and out of the varied aspects of summer’s moods. Sinking willingly into the quiet, drowsy parts of the day and then, jumping up into activity as the heat wanes and energy bubbles up again.  An out of control summer person is constantly going and going, sending out hot rays of forced sunshine.

 

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Sweet, silent fall.

 

The person in sync with fall is able to feel deeply the wounds of humanity and still have an open heart, filled with compassion for all of life. When the quality of fall is in balance, there is a sense of awe about life. A person stuck in fall is filled with eternal grief, needing to let go and unable to gain fruition or completion.

 

 

 

Blue moonscape

Blue moonscape

Being in sync with winter is expressed by intentionally going inside to feel and observe the deepest elements of oneself. A profound peacefulness is found in the darkest recesses of the soul. It is a peace that can be pulled forward during times of lack, bringing warmth to the inner fire to keep it burning strong until spring. The person stuck in winter is cold, removed, feeling blue, internal and lethargic.

Come to the Sugi Garden to experience the qualities of spring that are bursting forth. Through this experience of spring, you will learn how to get in touch with the natural rhythms of life.

We will explore some simple processes of self-inquiry that will bring your inherent joy to the surface and transform the way you live. As a result, you will become more in sync with nature, deepening your awareness of body, mind and soul.

Join me for a two hour workshop offered by Sustainable Contra Costa. Register at sustainablecontracosta.org. Look for the Sustainable Living Workshop Series.

Sunday, March 13

2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

$25


As the Garden Grows

As the sun has been shining brightly, the plants are beginning to grow more quickly.We have a large variety of plants this spring and it is fun to wander through the garden and see how much growth has occurred during the last day.

Jerusalem Artichokes "Sunchokes"

The jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes) are a fun plant. A beautiful yellow flower blooms on tall stalks in the fall. Or if you want to eat them, dig up the roots for a tasty tuber. Last year, I unintentionally planted some pole beans next to the sunchokes. As the two of them grew, the beans wrapped themselves around the stalk of the sunchokes. This year, we did it intentionally to see what will happen.

Beans growing

We’ve tried many types of supports for pole beans over the years and have found that it is not easy for us for some reason to find a good solution. In the past, we’ve resorted to bush beans which can be harder to harvest as the beans get lost in the foliage.This year we’ve set up a fence for the beans to grow on and that seems to be a perfect solution for a large crop that needs support.

Artichoke plants

 

This is the first time we’ve grown artichokes and it is interesting to watch them grow. Starting plants from seed and seeing the cute little leaves turn into broad large leaves always amazes me. We’re keeping them well watered and have put manure around the base of the plants as they like lots of fertilizing.

 

 

 

The natural beauty of plants continually keeps my photographer’s eye in heaven. The light at different times of day offers a completely unique view of each glorious plant. The colors are so beautiful!

Evening beans

Heirloom Eggplant baby

Baby Purple Cabbage

Baby Kale

 

The strawberry patch that Ofer made this year is starting to give us some darling little strawberries.

New strawberries

Strawberry baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re sweet and delicious when popped into the mouth directly from the plant! The figs are also growing prolifically providing a different shade of green in the garden. We have already picked the first of the blackberries, just one or two, but they aren’t as sweet as we’d like them to be. So, now we need to figure out what to do to sweeten them up!

White Figs

Red berries

 

Whenever we’re in the garden, the cats are not far away. It is fun to see how differently they enjoy helping us. Lao is the overseer.

Checkin' out the grapes

 

He is always sticking his nose into everything to make sure all is running smoothly.  Every time I turn around  he is  underneath the plant next to me, looking closely at the seedling I just planted or smelling the flowers nearby.

Overseeing the side yard

Lao standing guard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jade prefers to follow nearby looking for a petting hand, watch from afar or tussle with Lao in the dirt.

Jade on swing

Lao and Jade helping

 

Sumiko is the more distant overseer. She doesn’t want to be near people too much, but she is constantly doing her rounds of the property, taking good care of her territory. A talented climber, Sumi is often up a tree or making sure the grapes are growing well.

Sumi in the garden

Peeking at chickens

Cattail grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chicks have arrived! We are thrilled to have some new flock members this spring. Iowa Blue, Russian Orloff and Wellsummer chicks are now residing at the Sugi Garden. They are so tiny when we get them, only a day or two old. Yet, each day they are a little bigger and cheeping more enthusiastically!

Baby chicks

Fluffy chick

Cuddly chicks

 

The black ones are the Iowa Blue, a rare breed that lays brown eggs. The yellow ones are the Russian Orloff, an exotic looking bird that lays tinted eggs. And the darker brown chicks are Wellsummers, sweetly tempered chickens that lay a dark red-brown egg.

I'm exhausted!

 

 

It can be alarming the first time you have baby chicks because, like all babies, all they do is eat, poop and sleep. So, after running around pecking and eating, they will suddenly fall to the ground in slumber. It looks like they’re dead and it can be tough to watch until you’re used to it!

True to form, Lao is watching all the goings on quite closely. Initially we were concerned about the cats, but it turns out that they are very respectful, Sumi is actually wary, and they stay a safe distance away like guards.

What's that?!

 

 

 


Natives are the Answer!

For many years I have tried to find something to grow successfully in the front of my house. It is facing south so I wanted to have something that was heat resistant and drought tolerant. I tried low-growing manzanita, but I don’t think I watered it enough for it to get established. Most recently, I put in a bunch of low-growing succulents that have a lovely pink flower. I managed to water it well at first, but as the summer went on it got to be too much and failed in the intense heat. Sigh!

For a few years, I watched as the California Poppies that are volunteersin the yard, decided to take over that challenging area.

California Poppies

That made me happy for a while, until I realized (after a hot hike and the delicious aroma of the sages) that it might be possible to plant some native sages. Every time I hike around here, like at Black Diamond Mines or Mitchell Canyon among other places, I smell the tantalizing aroma of the sages when they bloom. It turns out that it is actually their leaves that have such an enticing scent! My favorites are black sage, pitcher sage and mugwort. Finally, I decided last year to find the black sage that I absolutely love.

Black Sage blooming

Pitcher Sage blooms

Luckily, I found some at Morningsun Herb Farm that would fit my hot, south-facing front yard perfectly! Last year I planted Black Sage and a couple of other sages whose names I don’t remember. I found Pitcher Sage with lavendar blooms (not the white I see in the wild) at another local natives nursery that, sadly,went out of business last summer. I also, added some Penstemon, another native that thrives in this area. The Calendulas I planted in back have spread to the front and have added themselves to the colorful array.

This year, the whole front is alive with brilliant colors! It feels welcoming and happy and requires no fuss at all.

Salvia with purple stalks

Penstemon

Salvias in front

Poppies, Calendula, Penstemon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ‘ve found that natives are a wonder to plant in all areas of the garden. They thrive and are drought tolerant. Their native beauty is stunning and the variety is endless. My friend, Christine, gave me some mugwort from her garden. The mugwort is happily growing in the side yard. It doesn’t like as much sun so I also planted some under the oak tree. I wasn’t sure if it would do well as it was in a hard spot to water. But, it is back this spring and has actually added more plants as I was hoping!

Mugwort

Sticky Monkeyflower

Sticky Monkeyflower blooms

 

Other natives I have growing in my side garden are Sticky Monkeyflower, Blue-eyed Grass and Evening Primrose. This photo of the Evening Primrose shows its growth right now. The flowers haven’t started blooming yet.

Blue-eyed Grass

Evening Primrose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each spring, we enjoy more and more natives volunteering in our yard. To many people, they are weeds, but to us they are a sign of a healthy yard. We have mallow, mustard, cleavers, purslane, and miner’s lettuce – all edible plants that volunteer each year. Some have already come and gone and others are on the way soon.

Cleavers

Blooming Mustard

Miner's Lettuce

One of the happiest volunteers I have each year is the Feverfew. This is a lovely herb that makes me happy whenever I see it. It was growing in the far back corner of our yard when we first moved in. Now it finds many perfect places to show its sunny face. It’s a great addition to herbal teas in the summer, a bright bouquet and is traditionally known as a remedy for migraine headaches.

Feverfew Patch

Feverfew trio

 

 

 

What natives are growing in your garden? Look around and see what wants to share life with you.


Broccoli Delight

The garden has been slow to develop this winter. Now that it is definitely spring, I am finding more growth and response. I love the way the flowering bulbs pop their heads up early showing promises for the coming glory.

At this time of year, I have a sideyard full of oxalis providing delicious lemon yellow color all day long. The tantalizing scent of narcissus is filling the house. Intoxicating!

narcissus and calendula

While today the first, and most fragrant, of the freesias (the yellow ones) are opening to fill the air with their own lovely fragrance.

yellow freesias

The broccoli I planted last spring (what’s still standing of it) is finally offering us baby broccoli to put in the salad. The “winter” crop of broccoli is also finally giving us something to eat. This year we discovered that the greens are as tasty as the heads. They provide a delicious and nutritious option to chard, kale or cabbage.

 

 

purple baby broccoli

garden greens

 

The hearty mustard is with us this at this time of year also. Mustard is my favorite of the naturalized plants. Though many people don’t like them as they are not truly “native”, I enjoy the happy yellow mustard blossoms. And their greens are delicious! Nothing like wandering out in the yard and picking fresh mustard greens to add to a dish. It’s only available for a limited time each year and that makes it doubly precious. Come and get some in the next week while they’re still around!

 

 

The garlic chives are doing quite well also. I’ve tried for years to grow onion chives with little success. For some reason, I always get aphids on them and they die. So, I’m very please that the garlic chives are doing well!

garlic chives

When I have vegetables in the garden, I love to peruse my cookbooks (yes, actual books!) and find recipes to make featuring what’s fresh. One of my favorite cookbook authors is Mollie Katzen. I found a recipe that I hadn’t tried before in her Moosewood Cookbook. It’s called Warm Salad. I love the use of the fresh greens mixed with the other vegetables. I added my baby purple broccoli  and some broccoli leaves instead of the escarole. You can see how gorgeous the broccoli is after its cooked. It starts out purple and turns a bright green with cooking! I used my spring onions instead of leeks and it was delicious. Here’s the recipe from the book:

warm salad

           Warm Salad

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small bunch escarole, chopped

1 medium bunch red or green chard, chopped

8 large napa or savoy cabbage leaves, chopped

2 cups chopped mustard greens

 

1 – 2 tsp. salt                                                                  1 stalk celery, sliced

2 large cloves garlic, minced                                   1/2 small cauliflower, chopped

2 medium leeks, chopped                                           3 Tbsp. balsamic or wine vinegar

2 cups red onion, chopped                                          6 Tbsp. or more parmesan

3/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced                                         fresh black pepper

1) Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large wok or deep skillet. Add the escarole, chard, cabbage and mustard greens, a little at a time, salting lightly after each addition, and adding more greens as soon as the ones in the pot cook down enough to make room. Use a fairly intense level of heat under the pot, and stir as you cook. When all the greens are wilted and tender, stir in the garlic. Cook and stir just a minute or two more, then transfer to a platter.

2) Add the remaining oil to the wok or skillet, and when it is hot add leeks, onion, mushrooms, celery and cauliflower (I added the broccoli here). Salt lightly, and stir-fry quickly over medium-high heat until just tender (about 5-8 minutes). Add to the platter, mix gently to incorporate the greens and sprinkle with vinegar and parmesan while still hot. (I put the greens back in the pan to mix. Then I had each family member take a serving and sprinkle their own vinegar and cheese individually. That way, the leftovers can be reheated and taste fresh tomorrow.)


Signs of Spring

As we approach Valentine’s Day, I find myself feeling the full influence of what we call in California “false spring”. Every year at this time, I feel the pull of the sunshine and the slightly warmer days, fooling me into thinking that it is time to plant. Instead, it is a good time to prune, plant bare-root trees and flowers, and clean up from the winter – leaves that are in unattractive places, mud-spattered areas, jumbled pots and sticks flung around the yard.

Fig branch budding

Nonetheless, the signs of spring are evident all around the garden and I can take comfort in their presence. The first blooms every year are the snowdrops – a lovely little bulb that brightens everyone’s heart. The first year we lived here, my son (who was barely 6 at the time) and I went out in the yard in late January to take a look around.

First snowdrops

We spied the Snowdrop blossoms and our hearts soared. My tender-hearted boy let tears fall at the immense joy he felt seeing these lovely little harbingers of spring.

Not long after, the Oxalis begins to show its face. Many people don’t like this plant and call it a weed. It does tend to be invasive, but I find that it’s lovely yellow blossoms and pretty leaves  (easily visible with the snowdrops here) make up for its effusive enthusiasm. I just pull it out of the areas that I don’t want it living in and enjoy its beauty everywhere else. It has a flavorful spike that it puts out and is

Oxalis flowers

often called Sourgrass. Another child-friendly plant, the kids love to suck out the sour flavor in the early spring.

One of our favorite features of the kind of “wild and natural” style of gardening we do is the presence of volunteer natives every year. When we first moved here, we found large patches of Miner’s Lettuce in the back of the property. It is a treat in the early spring, and we love adding it to our salads for a little spice. It grows profusely in the hills around here, but we aren’t allowed to pick it – it’s against the law! When we expanded the garden last summer, I was a little concerned that we were covering up all the wild areas that the miner’s lettuce would grow. My fears were unfounded.

Now, in this earliest of springtime, I am finding many miner’s lettuce volunteers popping up all over. Some are in the vegetable beds, where I leave them to happily grow; others are placing themselves in pots and seem quite happy there as well.

Evening Primrose leaves

Evidence of one of my favorite natives, Evening Primrose, is showing itself quite early this year. This is a wonderful flower that is useful as an herb and is one of the flower essences I use in my flower essence therapy practice. When this one is blooming, I’ll show you it’s lovely blossom.

The many bulbs that I planted in the fall also begin to show themselves at this time of year. Though they aren’t blooming quite yet, when I look closely, I can see their leaves pushing up through the soil. The freesias, one of my favorite bulbs, have been showing their leaves for over a month already.

Sweet pea starts

Sweet peas also come up early in the spring if you get the early bloomers. Here is a pot of sweet peas that started growing a month ago and are looking quite happy even without much rain.

Last year, I planted some goldenrod as I read that it is a good companion plant. I also use it with my flower essence practice and enjoy having those flowers in my garden as much as possible. I didn’t know how the goldenrod would behave after it died back. I looked a week ago at the pot it is in and there is already happy evidence of its return!

Goldenrod leaves

A childhood favorite, Pussy Willow, grows in my front yard. For me, this tree is all heart. As an avid cat person, I relate on many levels to the pussy willow. It’s association with love and joy stays deep in my heart.

Early Pussy Willow Buds

Interesting that its soft little buds appear around Valentine’s Day each year.

Speaking of hearts, did you know that there is scientific study demonstrating that people die from “broken heart syndrome”?  Dr. Kate Scannell recently wrote in an article in the Contra Costa Times, “Experts think broken heart syndrome is caused by adrenaline surges triggered during physical trauma or acute emotional states such as bereavement, anxiety and anger.” So, if you know someone who has recently experienced a deep loss now is a good time to offer solace. Spring blooms are a beautiful way to open the heart again. As I mentioned, flower essence therapy uses flowers for that very purpose. The flower’s essence heals the stricken soul.

Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled on ClevelandClinic.org says,  “Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.” What a nice way to say “Love” on Valentine’s Day!

            We’re taking orders for heart-shaped fudge for Valentine’s Day until Friday, Feb. 10.

Who would you like to give some love to this Valentine’s Day?