The Garden Experiment: week 6

The sunflower is ready to pop open any day. I can barely reach it now — I actually had to stand up on the corners of the bed (which is two feet high) to take this photo. Kent has sort of forgotten that this is his plant, but I'm sure that once the flower pops open and he sees all the sunny yellowness, he'll remember to be excited again. Something I want to figure out: when the sunflower opens up and starts making seeds, how do I harvest some seeds to plant next year? I'm guessing that if we want to eat some, we just roast them with some salt, but I need to know how to preserve some of the others so that we can have a whole cluster of them next year.

The cherry tomato plant has several green clusters, with more to come. The Superfantastic tomato (seen here) has a few tiny tomatoes and one huge one that gets bigger each day. The Brandywine has yet to produce any fruit, but it has flowers all over the place, so I'm hoping they'll start coming out soon.

The flat-leaf parsley and basil are doing incredibly well. I've already harvested a giant pesto recipe's worth of herbs and put some of it in the freezer (I like Tyler Florence's recipe here), and I'm thinking it's about time to strip more leaves so that I can make another recipe. I just need more pine nuts, which I'll get when we go to Whole Foods in a couple of days.

I haven't talked much about the potted herbs, but I am absolutely loving the curly mint. The taste of fresh mint can't be replicated by anything else, and I hate spending $3 or $4 on a tiny package of fresh herbs at the store, so this is the first time that I've really been able to make a lot of stuff with mint. We made mojitos a couple of weeks ago, but they didn't quite turn out right. I couldn't figure out if they were too sweet, or not limey enough, or what, but they were sort of nauseating and they made me less excited about trying again. I'm excited to make Giada's dessert ravioli with orange-mint dipping sauce tonight. And now that we can get peaches, strawberries, blueberries, and watermelon from local farmers, I think we have a lot of minty fruit salad in our immediate future.

The onion stems are getting taller each week, leading me to wonder how I'm supposed to know when they're done. Do I just dig one up and taste it, or wait until they've reached a certain size? I put them in the ground a month and a half ago, and I think they were supposed to take about 2 months to mature, but of course I didn't save the package so I can't remember for sure.

Eggplant and bell peppers are still growing and making flowers. No vegetable-like activity yet, but I'm optimistic.

The one disappointment of the growing experiment is my poor cilantro. I pinch or clip all the flowers off every few days, but it seems to be putting all its energy into producing more flowers and has yet to grow any leaves that are worth eating. All the leaves are really thin and spindly and have never filled out. I've started thinking that maybe I should just let it make flowers and harvest some coriander (the seeds) instead... but I'm sort of giving up on it.

I also bought a dill plant at the market last week that has already turned brown, but I think it was the plant, not me. I've bought most of my plants from the nice plant people at the market, but I had to buy dill from the not-nice people because the nice people didn't have any, so I'm blaming the not-nice people. That's right, I'm shifting the blame.

We're definitely going to need more lumber to make a second raised bed next year. I'm already full of ideas.

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WOW, everything looks great! I've never had much luck with cilantro either. Apparently it needs sandy soil, which I never have. Whenever I've cut it, it never grows back. Oh well - I figure cilantro is cheap enough. I'll look forward to seeing what you get with the sunflower. People in our community garden grow them but we never have.

We still have a few dozen cubes of pesto from last year! I wish we could share across the miles. :-) Have you ever tried making it with walnuts? Steve & I like it better with walnuts than pine nuts, actually! Also, we freeze it without the cheese and add it when we defrost it. That way it's less voluminous AND you get fresh cheese.

I'm so excited that you like gardening! It's probably early enough in the season that you could build a 2nd bed now and plant a second harvest of tomatoes, onions or whatever you want. Squash seems to grow really fast, even from seed. We lost one of our squash plants 2 weeks ago, planted more from seed and they are already pretty big! Or maybe green beans? They LOVE heat, so you're in a perfect place for them!

sorry for the novel!
Oh man! I need to find out if I can mail cilantro, because if I can--you will be rolling in it! For some reason our cilantro has just gone crazy and we can't use enough of it. We even gave huge bagfuls away to three different families and we STILL have a ridiculous amount. So....cilantro may be on its way! BTW, all of your plants look great!
Heather, you're so funny with the stuff you want to mail me. Don't worry about it, though... I can get it for 50 cents a bunch, so I'll just do that every couple of weeks like I used to!

If you're looking to use yours, you could try making some pesto with cilantro and freezing it in cubes to use as a pizza sauce or on meat in a Mexican dish or something.

Sunflower: wait until it runs its course and dies and dries. Then you can get the seeds (hopefully before the birds)

Cilantro: when it goes to flower, it becomes coriander. Try to cut it back so that it doesn't flower. Also cilantro might not do as well in LA, because it tends to prefer slightly cooler climes.

Gardening in LA is such an adventure. Looks like you're having fun. I'm jealous of your almost red tomatoes.
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