December 26, 2010

Busy Winter

It's been a busy few weeks. Travel, the making of Christmas presents, family events... all fun but I'm glad things are winding down and my life is (almost) back to normal.

While in Austin a few weeks ago I went to The Natural Gardener for the first time. They have one of the best collections of native plants I've seen (and that's just during the winter, I can't wait to visit in spring) plus a great selection of herbs (I'm talking 6 varieties of sage, 8 different types of rosemary, 3 eucalyptus, etc). 

Fancy Oxalis
I was able to get an hoja santa (yummy), 3 almond verbenas (incredible scent), and some agastache which are all difficult or impossible to find at nurseries in Houston. They also had santolina (occasionally I can find that here) which I decided to put off buying, fancy oxalis (wood sorrel) which I did buy, and a nice selection of cover crop seed. I got perennial rye to bulk out some of the bare areas (hopefully the chickens will enjoy munching it) and crimson clover for me to admire and the bees to forage. I also picked up a lemon eucalyptus, some native columbine, a large wormwood, and two large lush rose geraniums. 

Speaking of The Texas Hill Country and rose geraniums... I went to school in San Antonio and then stayed for a few years after graduation. I love love love SA and wish I still lived there.  Anyhow, my favorite restaurant in the world is Liberty Bar (and that is not just hyperbole, I have eaten at restaurants in other countries). It just moved, which makes me sad, but it still exists which is a relief. They have an amazing dessert called "Geranium Cream". I tried to figure out how to make this unusual treat for years. Then one day Texas Monthly randomly published the recipe! It was an exciting day :-) 

Geranium cream is this sweet and tangy floral cream cheese textured goodness served with pureed blackberries (sometimes blueberries) and shortbread. The first time I had it was probably freshman year of college. My roommate and I tried this crazy dessert and couldn't decide if we liked it our not. But, we couldn't stop ordering it each time we went back and, just as I was addicted to their "Chicken With Hoja Santa" for years and Anna can't stop eating their "Pasta Luego", every time we went we ate Geranium Cream. Give it a try. It's a nice way to use your rose geranium leaves. 

They also have an extraordinary coconut custard. I don't know if this is still the case but back in the day, all you had to do was ask and they'd give you any recipe they had. I got that and a recipe for the best chocolate cake I've ever eaten. I'm kind of picky about my chocolate cake. They do a great cheese plate, a cold lamb plate that is very nice indeed, and green mole quail that rocks my socks. Their iced tea is strong enough to suit me and their sourdough bread is nice and sour. They have a rotating selection of daily specials including a fresh pasta. The only thing I ever had there that I did not like was some grilled tuna - overcooked.

Wow. I didn't realize this was going to turn into a restaurant review.

So here's what is growing around the place this winter: 

The aforementioned almond verbena. This one is about 2 years old. I thought I lost it last year in our unusually cold winter but it just died back to the ground and re-grew early summer. It has been blooming continuously since.

Garlic. I put it in a little late this year but I think it turned out all right because the fall was unusually warm.
Japanese Giant Red Mustard. It is indeed both giant and red.

Carrots. Shin Kuroda 5". I love this carrot. It grows better for me than any variety I've tried everywhere I've grown it but especially in these incredibly heavy soils.

Red Russian Kale, displaying two leaf types.

Vegetables in situ.
Old hens chillaxin in chickenkatraz.
Fred Astair in his prison.

Baby hens pressed up against the fence because they think I come bearing food rather than a camera.
And just because she's adorable...
...fluffy bum.

1 comment:

  1. I want to go to The Natural Gardener! I know I will make a specific trip over to Austin to do that one day. It has been on my list for a while, I just haven't been there. Now you have reminded me! There is an herb farm in the San Antonio area that I WILL WILL WILL go to this March and look forward to it. I bought some herbs from them last year at a garden sale and I still haven't been to their farm. It is called Nature's Herb Farm. Sincerely, Emily