April in the garden

Here are a couple snapshots of what the garden looked like last weekend. For the last few weeks, California poppies have been in full, traffic-cone orange bloom all over the area. My friend has a native plants garden in her front yard that currently looks like the poppy field from the Wizard of Oz. A few poppies decided to sprout up in the backyard vegetable garden as well.

I'm not a great photographer - some of the poppies are in the background of the photo below. In the foreground you can see colorful chard:

Citrus trees have been bearing fruit for the last couple months. In my friend's garden there are large pomelos, grapefruits, lemons, tangerines, and two types of oranges. At the South Pasadena farmer's market last week I saw many stands selling citrus fruits. Additionally, Bill's Bees, a local honey vendor at the market, particularly recommended orange-blossom honey, as so many citrus trees in the area were flowering recently.

This weekend we planted bell pepper seedlings as well as the squash that had been started from my Bokashi compost soil. We also pulled up the broccoli that was now past its season and threw it to the chickens, who had a party among the uprooted broccoli forest that we threw to into their enclosure.

In a raised bed in the back of the garden, some of the strawberries were beginning to ripen. These have also been plentiful at the farmer's market recently, with most vendors selling a 3-basket pack for $5-7. Next to the strawberries, carrots and lettuce also grow in the raised bed.

I planted the carrots from seed a couple months ago. Since the seeds are so tiny, it's impractical to start them inside. It's much easier to sprinkle a handful of seeds, cover them with a thin layer of soil and mulch directly in the raised bed, and thin them once they've grown a bit. Below are some of the baby carrots we thinned out to allow the remaining carrots room to grow properly. My horse really enjoyed the treat! He usually gets only carrot roots, but loves the greens as well when they are available.

We also harvested the last of the turnips, which are best eaten when they are 1"-2" in diameter for maximum tenderness (according to their seed packet's label). Pulling the little bulbs with the single, thin, pointy root gently out of the ground is such a satisfying feeling for some reason.

Below are the turnips, washed and separated from their leaves and roots. I must take a moment to rave about my OXO salad spinner. Back in my lazy-chef days of buying bagged salad greens, I couldn't fathom why anyone would own a salad spinner. It seemed like such a gimicky gadget, and a waste of money. Then I started cooking with whole ingredients, and shaking out spinach with a colander and towel began to get tedious. At a friend's house, I used the OXO once and was hooked. It's much larger and sturdier than other salad spinners I've seen, and I highly recommend it! It's pricey (about $30 even on amazon.com), but would be a good use of those $10-off or 20%-off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond!

I cut the turnips into thick slices and also halved the leaves lengthwise. I added the turnips and greens to boiling water and simmered for several minutes while I sauteed chopped turkey bacon in my cast iron skillet (I will rave more about cast iron in a later post!). When the bacon was ready, I drained the turnip water and added the turnips and greens to the pan. According to some recipes I referenced online, draining the water helps to remove any bitterness the greens might have had. I sauteed everything for a couple minutes and seasoned with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and onion and garlic power (my universal seasoning for vegetables lately). I must say it was delicious! And this is from a former vegetable skeptic (if not outright veggie-phobe).

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