Thursday, July 31, 2008

Returning from Italy

Coming back to my garden after two weeks away is a bit of a nightmare. Some of our friends in Davis were extremely thoughtful to water our garden for the time we were gone, and my sister stopped by in the middle to water the tomatoes, pick green beans, and generally set things in order as much as possible in an hour or two. Going to the garden at least every other day really hid from me the amazing changes that go on every day, but which are so small that I don't even notice them.

Primarily, despite my warnings to my friends to not touch my tomatoes, apparently they didn't know they also weren't supposed to water them. So for two weeks, they got way more water than I ever intended, and the resulting growth is incredible. I have vines falling all over the place, and have already spent a lot of time trying to get them back under control. I don't have all that many tomatoes yet, for this time of year. We've had a few heirlooms, and I have a basket of romas, and that's about it so far. Hopefully in another week or two I'll be able to start canning. Since we have so many jars of sauce from last year still, I'll probably make more tomato juice and ketchup this year instead. Yum!

We have had three beautiful melons - two were extremely ripe when we returned from Italy, and one isn't ready yet. We've already eaten one and a half of them, they're super-sweet and delicious. I don't know if I'll plant them again, though. For the amount of space they take up, I don't know if it's worth it.

We had tons of green beans. Unfortunately, the plants seem to be drying out quite a bit. We'll see what happens. I'm having a hard time with the weeds, they inter-grow with the bean plants and it's really hard to pull them. The beans are also getting huge and falling over - I may try staking them to keep them off the paths.

We also have lots of carrots and beets. The latest batch of carrots look great, much better than the older ones. It's about time to start planting new ones for fall. We're just about out of beets, I'm not sure if I'll try to grow them in the fall or wait again until early next spring.

Another thing that is doing great are the shallots. I've essentially stopped watering them, but some of them are still in the ground. I'll probably pull them all out today and store them with the garlic in our carport. They're delicious, and I think well worth growing.

The peppers are also doing amazingly well, but are suffering a lot from the weeds as well. I plan to do some major weeding after work today, and if I don't finish, I'll have to get to it on Sunday. We eaten a few peppers raw and in salads - none to roast yet. The yellow ones are so light green that it's hard to tell if/when they're ripening.

Basil and parsley is all doing well, really getting big. Both zucchini plants are huge and producing well, and the lima beans grew amazingly fast. It's hard to believe they're the same plants I left 2.5 weeks ago. The cucumber, sadly, isn't looking so great, but it's not a big loss if we lose it. And the eggplants are starting to produce - woohoo!

And that's my not-so-quick update! I'm starting to keep a written garden journal, so that I can post more stories, meals, and essays here instead, and not write out updates and lists and pretend to be interesting.

Friday, July 18, 2008

First five days in Italy

I've been in Italy for almost a week - we arrived Sunday afternoon, and it's now Friday afternoon. Time really flies.

We've eaten some really fantastic meals. I've already mentioned the porcini mushrooms, which we're really lucky to have a chance to eat fresh. It seems that they practically don't exist in the US. At least in Davis, we don't have the climate for them.

We had some of Loris' grandmother Agostina's vegetable soup last night. It was delicious, with onions, carrots, potatoes, green beans, zucchini, and I'm not sure what else. Before I left for Italy, I chopped up some zucchini, green beans, and carrots from the garden and put them in bags in the freezer, to make soup when we get back. I can't wait to get a dedicated freezer to store some of this stuff. We also had fresh mozzarella and stracchino, and a slice or two of pizza.

Speaking of pizza, that's what we're having tonight, at the Nebbius, the bar/hotel/pizzeria at the bottom of the square. We had a seafood lunch at the house in Aisone yesterday - pasta with clam sauce, grilled trout caught by Teresio, salad from the garden, and gelato.

And speaking of cheese, we had some fantastic cheese at Centro Fondo with our pasta and porcini sauce on Monday, and Teresio brought some on our hike today. I hope we remember to get some to take back to the US with us. And oh, the hike ... we climbed the Ischiator, the third highest mountain in the region. We went up in around 3 hours and 15 minutes. Here are some pictures.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Here are just a few pics of my tomatoes, which I took the morning that we left for Italy, July 12.

Compare this picture with the tomatoes just after I planted them


Mushroom hunting yesterday was pretty fun. I mostly just followed Loris' dad around through the woods and felt useless. Kind of like when he took me fishing. The only really sucky part was when I slipped and put my hand down on a spiky chestnut and got all the little splinters in my hand. I didn't have tweezers b/c I decided to leave my pocket knife in Davis. We did manage to get most of the splinters out of my hand in random ways, though. The amount of mushrooms we didn't take would have cost a thousand dollars in the US it seemed. His dad was super picky and would only take perfect porcinis, even though there were lots of less perfect ones and other beautiful edible mushrooms, too.

Here's a photo of the one "good" porcini mushroom:

And these are some porcini mushrooms I found at the
farmer's market in Davis a few weeks ago:

Loris sauteed them with garlic, mint, and parsley:

And then added tomato sauce:

Friday, July 11, 2008

leaving for Italy

Loris and I are leaving for Italy tomorrow. I'm sad that we're leaving the garden right when things are really starting to produce. We ate a few tomatoes last night, and I know when I get back I'll have to start making sauce right away.

I don't have much to say, except that I've been too busy to do much lately. I've been just keeping the zucchini and green beans picked, and that's about it. No bread-making, no weeding, no planting, nothing. What in the world have I been doing with my time? I'm not really sure.

I'll write some food-related posts from Italy, and maybe some outdoorsy posts, too.