Tag Archives: gardening

The treasures of gardening

I haven’t written much about my garden this year, but it has quietly produced about twice the bounty of the previous year. Even the size of the produce has increased and is even more delicious. I have been reflecting much about the readings of Masanobu Fukuoka’s books The One-Straw Revolution, and his general philosophy of farming, or in my case gardening. I sensed that he just like to watch plants grow regardless of what they produced. I am now seeing this two and a half years into my project. There is great joy in watching a pumpkin vine roam and sprawl, as with a bitter melon plant. There is great joy in watching a basil plant get so top heavy that it falls over and needing a trellis as a prop to support it. There is great joy in watching seedings turn to plants, and then bear fruit.

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There are also surprises. Like purple carrots and random bitter melons hanging behind another plant that you didn’t expect to find. I also like that this type of gardening seems to attract nearby wildlife from the marsh. I different types of birds roaming around the lawn feasting on insects.

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Even Fukuoka writes about how wildlife interacts with his farm. He writes, “We had just finished harvesting the rice, and overnight the rice stubble and low-lying grasses had become completely covered with spider webs, as though with silk. Waving and sparkling with the morning mist, it was a magnificent sight…The spectacle is an amazing natural drama. Seeing this, you understand that poets and artists will also have to join in the gathering.” (p.27-28 One-Straw Revolution)

At night I have been hearing the quack of ducks in my yard. That is not so unusual, but the quacking has gotten louder of late. I have even seen ducks roaming around in the garden looking like they were up to some type of no good. Then today when I was cutting down the grass under my trellis with a hand sickle, I caught a glimpse of something…

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My mother-in-law said she sees a duck come out of the thicket once a day for the past four days, and was trying to keep their secret. It seems the nearby marsh ducks are planning to hatch their eggs right in the middle of the garden. My first instinct was to remove the eggs. But I have a feeling that Fukuoka would just let it ride, waiting for the mysteries of nature to reveal something greater. I’m am starting to think more along his lines.

 

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Happy New Year! Startin’ with the garden

As many of my readers are probably having to wear a heavy coat now, I’d like to start the new year right, with a few pictures of warmth from my garden. It is year two of my Fukuoka-style of gardening. An unusually wet Hawai’i December has yielded wonderful results.

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Chilly? How about Chile? This pepper plant barely survived last year’s summer. Now it is producing long delicious capsaicin-rich Cayennes. I think these are the kind that Chef Pasquale uses and calls “Oh yeah babys.”

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The tall grass is a natural trellis for these snap peas. Once they reach the “roof” of this table-like trellis my wife and I put up last year they start going wild. Can you spot the camouflaged gecko on the bamboo? Those guys help me control the unwanted pests in the garden.

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This patch of bush beans produced so many green beans I was able to make a dish for Christmas dinner with family visitors.

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Across the yard our Meyer lemon tree is staring to produce its first bounty. These in time will swell up to full sized lemons. Enough to give away to family and friends.

I don’t want to bore you with the rest of the produce, but there is also a pumpkin, eggplant, bitter melon, saluyot, and daikon sprouting in this space.

The only work I did in the garden was throw seeds and trim the grass with a hand sickle. Nature has taken care of the rest of the labor. Stay tuned and happy new year!

 

Simple dinner from my garden

I harvested a few items from my garden recently. My vegetables are so small that they would barely be a mouthful. Look how tiny my eggplant and Roma tomato turned out…

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Since there is no good sense of scale here, the eggplant is roughly the size of a lemon, and the tomato the size of, well you can do the calculations based on the photo. I have a guilty pleasure of viewing Conor Bofin’s site called “One Man’s Meat.” Although I don’t eat that much meat, I like his sense of authentic preparation and photography skills. So I will channel my inner Conor for this blog and attempt to do with veggies what he does with lamb chops.

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Luckily I had a good picking of leaves from a mustard spinach green plant and a few stray basil.

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I chopped up the eggplant (not seen) the tomato and a half a shallot.

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I sautéed the eggplant in a splash of olive oil soon followed by the shallots…

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Then added the mustard-spinach and basil.

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Once reduced in size I added a dash of salt and pepper and a twist of lemon to brighten it all up.

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Voila! About two or three delicious bites.

And a nice mango for dessert given to me by one of the students at my studio. (Thank you Sandy!)

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Then I scarfed a huge bowl of unsightly left over pasta (not seen). Hope I did you justice Conor!

 

 

My wife’s green thumb (more like nuclear)

If you have been following my garden escapades, you’ll know that my wife and I have his and hers gardens. While I have been somewhat successful in trying to retrace Masanobu Fukuoka’s method of “do nothing” farming, my wife went straight to the traditional method of spreading soil and planting seeds.

I have struggled mightily to grow cucumbers in my garden which is on the the sunnier, drier side of the yard. In Hawai’i we have “microclimates” which can vary in a short space like in our backyard. My wife has the more shaded, cooler part of the yard.

While I harvested this a while back, it was the only cucumber I have successfully grown as my plants have all dried out and developed gummy stem disease which renders the fruit dry and prickly.

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My wife’s Japanese cucumber plant on the other hand has taken over most of the large trellis we put around it and has begun producing gargantuan results. I harvested this today. It was so big and ungainly that it scared my poor mother in law Toshiko. She could not even bear to be in the same room with it which verifies my suspicion that she is actually part cat.

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This monster weighs about 2 pounds (a little less than 1 kg). It is spikey and you could probably use it as an effective battle club. My mother in law even questioned if it was indeed a cucumber. “I’ve never seen a Japanese cucumber like this, maybe this is an English cucumber or squash.”

After work today we all came home and tried a slice with great trepidation. It was probably the most delicious cucumber I’ve ever had. It was even a little sweet with a strong cucumber taste.

I snipped this off my trellis also. It is a tiny bitter melon from my Fukuoka garden. I sliced it thin and salted it, washed it off and added ginger, bonito flakes and shoyu (a traditional Japanese preparation). It was small but delicious. To get a sense of scale see that it occupies about a four inch circle on my table cloth compared to my wife’s battleship above.

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The good thing about gardening with your wife is that no matter what size, you always get to share the harvest 🙂

Letting your plants go seed

When I was a teenager, I can remember waiting in the doctors office and perusing a hunting magazine. I had no interesting in hunting, but it was the only thing to read in the days well before iPhones. Between the articles of using store bought fox urine versus to the real deal for God only knows what, I came across an article that has apparently stayed with me for years. It was a first hand account of a man who successfully tracked down a prized deer, but couldn’t bring himself to shoot it because he was in awe of the beauty and strength of this animal.

As my plants in my garden are maturing, I haven’t been able to pick some of them for very much the same reasons as the hunter above. Watching something grow from seed since nascency, then becoming ripe and the flowering, then seeding, then dying is a beautiful process to watch. It is hauntingly a fast forward preview of our own cycle of existence in this embodiment, and in mankind itself.

I knew I was too late picking my freckled lettuce when I snapped off a leaf and chewed it, only to have an extremely bitter taste in my mouth. I have developed great respect for lettuce plants a they are some of the most disease resistant, insect resistant, drought resistant, and delicious plants that can be grown. When they are mature, they go right into seed making mode and grow a crown on top reminiscent of something truly Royal.

It is odd growing plants in Hawai’i, a place where you can plant any time of year and produce. As this past week was the first day of Spring, many of my plants are behaving like its Fall and either harvesting or going to seed. Rather than greedily picking them all, I am letting some continue their short life cycle on this earth with hope that they will produce more offspring with their withering.

On a bright note, I did harvest my first pumpkin. It was small and beautiful and made my mother in law very happy. I plan to take it on “tour” to show all my students, coworkers, friends, and clients with whom I was showing weekly pictures of progress like some deranged parent. Who knows, I might just eat it one day 🙂

Patience paying off: garden starting to show its bounty

What a wonderful week in gardening! The romaine lettuce seen in the featured image is just one of the main attractions that has come from the soil this week. After successfully pollinating my pumpkin flowers using a paintbrush, a small Kabocha is starting forming (see below). It is growing about twice its size daily. A few fairly heavy showers have been a boon to the dry soil and many magical things are starting to happen.

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A cucumber vine (below) is now is sprouting four fruits at the same time, when I was lucky to get one from the first plant that grew which recently died off. You can see a young cucumber here which start off prickly until they mature into succulent morsels.

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A home made trellis made of three bamboo sticks and twine has made this bitter melon  a happy plant. I am using materials found around the house to use as “props” for my plants. It seems as though my Iyengar training is staring to “cross pollinate” into other areas of my life. You can see the clovers below that add fertilizer by fixing nitrogen into the soil.

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Below you can see a daikon which started to flower with a long stalk and small lavender colored petals. For those with a botany background taking a second look a the plant, is shows that the daikon, a carrot, and burdock all came from the same seed ball and are occupying the same space. I will let this daikon flower produce seeds so I can replant more next season.

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And making a rare cameo, your’s truly holding a recently harvested daikon. Remember how small my last one was from my post about the chisai (small) harvest? Well this one is full size and more than a handful.

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And to attract bees and other beneficial insects, I am adding sunflowers to the garden. I transplanted this beauty a few days ago. It also provides shade and wind protection.

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Like a hungry serpent, below the creepy crawly pumpkin vine ventures well past the garden searching for more space. This is about 15 feet long now, but I have heard these could grow up to 50 feet. If I blink, this plant will probably wind up in my neighbor’s yard. Perhaps I’ll offer him a pumpkin 🙂

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Chisai (small) harvest

The first “bumper” crop came in from my garden. Let’s just say it was a bumper from a Mini Cooper instead of a Hummer, but at least I’m keeping it green 🙂 Chisai (small) is the word my Japanese mother-in-law used to describe my harvest. Although these plants are tiny compared to the one’s seen in the store, they are indeed some delicious delicacies. I’d like to share them with you.

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Above is how the cucumber from a few posts ago turned out. It was near the ground and grew into a circle. This was probably the first bona fide vegetable I grew from seed, so I am extremely fond of it. As Fukuoka’s theory of gardening was based on the concept of “mu” or “nothingness” this cucumber reminded me of an enso circle in Zen Buddhism which symbolizes that we are nothing and everything. In a strange cosmic way, I felt this was Fukuoka’s way of giving me his blessing for my garden. I also harvested this near his birthday on Feburary 2 (he would have made 104 this year). After showing this to my family, I cut it into three pieces and we all enjoyed it.

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Below are some Romanine lettuce mixed with daikon leaves. The daikon leaves were spicy and mustardy and mixed well with the mild Romaine. As you can see this is about a tenth of the size of the variety that comes in your caesar salad. But we ate these without any dressing and they were delicious!

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Below are snap peas. These have come from a confused plant which has tried to latch on to anything it can to trellis itself upward. I thought the windy dry weather had done them in, but they rebounded nicely and produced these beautiful pea pods. Sweet, crisp and succulent.

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Below is a “preemie” daikon. If you have ever seen one of these in real life, you’d know that they are huge with a root the size of toddler’s leg. This little guy was growing right next to another daikon and was competing for space, so I decided to pluck him and add him to my stir fry. When they are small and young like this they pack a spicy punch much like horse radish or wasabi. Bold, assertive flavor from this pint sized offering.

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A few haricot verts from my bush bean plant. These grow quickly. The beauty of bush beans is they magically keep giving and giving. In fact is in encouraged to harvest often so the plant does not flower and go to seed.

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And last but not least, this wonderful Kabocha pumpkin plant is snaking through my garden like a dragon complete with scales. I’ve never grown a pumpkin before and didn’t realize what a regal and dynamic plant it is. It uses its tentacle like vines to secure it to the ground like staples and behind the “head” large yellow flowers bloom on the body like fireworks. A female flower finally emerged but has not opened. The large black bees which circle overhead will certainly pollinate this plant once the female flower opens.

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Although the plants are small, these mini harvests have given me hope. As one of my Facebook friends said “Don’t be put off if things grow smallish this year. They will grow bigger and better each year.” There is a nice quote from Audrey Hepburn: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” With all the craziness in the world right now, my garden and my yoga practice have kept me grounded and optimistic about the future regardless of world events. Although you couldn’t taste these, I hope they were a feast for the eyes. Many blessings!