Thursday, December 30, 2010

The post-Christmas post!

So, I have been quite a lazy one with the blog lately! I missed my last deadline to put up a photo of the week! Let's just chalk that up to Christmas festivities and holiday work in the retail business taking up my time.

So, takaeko will be pleased to read that I have just today received my iPad in the mail! I must say that the iPad is even more amazing than I thought. I sell these things all day long, but actually having one in my hands to call my own is something else! I have finally had time to sit with the iPad and notice how amazing the multitasking abilities of it are! I have safari, iDisk, mail, iPod, photos, and like 10 different apps open and still running and there is no lag! (for those that are like, so what, just imagine a computer from about 5 years ago trying to do all of that while being less than 3 pounds without a fan!)

That is all to this post. Soon to come, my late photo of the week and my belated Christmas herb post. Getting back into the swing of things for 2011. See everyone next year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bean sprouts! Yum!

So, I checked up on the bean sprouts, and we have delicious, juicy, crisp mung bean sprouts ready for salads and so forth!

So far, they turned out to be a bit shorter than I would like, which is partially my fault. I should have left the sprouts in the dark where they would grow long, twisted and blanched. So, I just grabbed a few sprouts, and put the rest of the sprouts back into the dark to see whether I can get any bigger sprouts.

A large clump of mung bean sprouts, pre-plucked.
Post-pluck, with the roots removed. Note to growers: putting the mung beans in the light caused them to leaf out too fast, and it gives the sprouts a spicier, somewhat onion flavor at times. Keep them in the dark!
 By the way, as I speak, I have my eyes up in the skies, watching the beautiful total lunar eclipse! To those who aren't able to see it tonight, I'm so sorry. I tried taking photos, but night shooting and my camera just don't agree.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Photo of the Week 10

A deciduous Saucer Magnolia (I think a Jane Magnolia?) from Descanso Gardens.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Indoor Garden

So, work has become very hectic with the holidays fast-approaching in the retail world. Working at Apple with only a week until Christmas has proven to be one crazed whirlwind affair so far! It is stressful at times since there are probably 300 customers within a store that is no bigger than my kitchen and living room combined. That being said, I would not want to work in any other mall store for the holidays! Each coworker that I work alongside of is very friendly and helpful no matter how crazy it gets, and most of us act like silly high school kids when we have free time. So, that was my intro into saying that I've been so busy that I haven't gotten to post about my seedlings that I started!

So, you got to see my chickpeas that I started. Well, since then, they have sprouted quite well and are already quite leafy! Here is a small progression of their growth in the past few weeks.

Also, I have added mung beans to my repertoire in my indoor kitchen greenhouse. I bought just bulk mung beans from the local Whole Foods market, a supermarket that prides themselves on all-organic products (though I believe that organic products do not have to be as expensive as they are there; I think they know that they can mark up their products because they market themselves as totally organic and some people will pay through the nose to get organic products...I could go on and on about this...I'll stop). So, here is what has been happening with my bean sprouts!

I used a large yogurt cup and some napkins as the growing container.
I soaked the mung beans overnight to help the beans shed their outer coat.
Before and after soaking.
The bottom of the yogurt cup had holes poked into it to allow drainage and then a wet napkin was used as a filter and rooting medium to keep conditions moist and humid. I then covered with cling film and placed the beans in a cool and dark room.
Day 3
Day 5
Today - day 14
 Every day or so, I rinse the mung bean sprouts so keep them moist and I make sure that the container is well-drained before I leave it so that mildew doesn't set in. I have moved them out into a bit of light to see if they will get a bit meatier so I can eat them with salads and pho.

In the other room, I have moved the cuttings of rosemary that my grandmother gave me into pots since they have finally begun to root. 
The rosemary and the oh-so-professional rooting technique of sticking 'em in water
and leaving 'em on the kitchen counter.
Some of the roots on the rosemary. I stripped the leaves off up to where the roots were and potted the cuttings. The leaves went into a delicious rosemary chicken recipe.
2 cuttings started, interspersed with mung beans (I want to make my own mung beans for sprouts next year)
 So that is an update on the plants I have started. Sadly, the update on the potato is that it has been unceremoniously chucked out back into the cold, unforgiving winter climate. I didn't start the potato properly so it was getting leggy up top instead of growing downwards, but mostly it was attracting fungus gnats badly. I have another potato sitting out, waiting to grow sprouts from its eyes. I may start it in a trash can later this year where it will have much more room to grow!

Soon to come, I am working on mistletoe and some of the herbs of Christmas lore! If anyone knows of Hanukkah herbs, Kwanzaa herbs, and so forth, pass them along! I have had no luck finding many that aren't Christian-related! Taking suggestions on the next herb after that. Thinking chamomile, basil, mugwort, anything really. The sky's the limit!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Photo of the Week 9

An indian hawthorne, taken on-campus of the Cal Poly Technical College in Pomona, CA.

Monday, December 6, 2010

And the next herb will be.....

I am currently perusing my encyclopedias and herbal books to decide on the next herb to start research on. So I am open to suggestions: What herb would YOU like to see featured next?

I personally have been thinking of doing something in the spirit of the holiday season coming up, but not too plentiful with ideas yet. I have looked into possibly doing frankincense or myrhh (you know, the three wise men's gifts...even though those are technically RESINS...not pure herb...). If anyone knows of herbs that are prominent in kwanza, hannukah, or any other holiday celebrations I would love to discuss the history of them in light of the season.

If not, then I shall take ANY suggestions! Thanks!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Photo of the Week 8

Even though the shot is a little blurry (it's so hard to get a good shot of fish that NEVER sit still!), this picture is in honor of my cute little fishy widget on my page. It's the one thing that I love to go to my blog page for and just like to feed them every once in a while. I know they're not real, but I like them still! :-) If you have not noticed, I make sure to change their colors and the background to reflect the seasons!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Originality Acheived!

So it took me a few hours, but I am finally satisfied (for now at least) with the new layout of the page. It's quite dark as compared to the previous page, but it has a bit more personality to it. I may change the color, who knows. Let me know how it looks, and please let me know if there are any kinks!


The Quest for Originality!

So, not that I have too much of an issue with this, but in perusing for interesting new posts by other bloggers, I seemed to notice that there are at least 5 or more blogs with the same design, layout and graphics on their page.

Wishing to stick out like a sore thumb, I am interested in coming up with an original background. Whilst I ponder and poke about for ideas, if anyone has any suggestions, let me know!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wishlist check off

So, I guess just trying to be ambitious, I already got a few of the seeds that I had on my list. Checked off of my list now are:

Beets "Gourmet Duo"
Radish "Pink Beauty"
Lettuce "Crimson Crisp"
Carrot "Tendersweet" addition to all of the previously highlighted items. I put the remaining list up on the right side as a checklist to help me remember! Any superb recommendations on varieties would be great! I also couldn't help myself: I grabbed some spring onion seeds and some lemon and lime basil seeds...

I had forgotten to check off that I had chickpeas as well! When I was at the grocery store last, I grabbed some dried chickpeas to make hummus. Well, I took about 10-12 of the chickpeas and wrapped them in some moist paper towels, stuck them in a clear sandwich baggie and placed them on the windowsill. Well, only about 2 days later, I noticed that they were already sprouting! I've never seen seeds sprout that fast!

Also, my potato that I started about a month ago is getting tall. I am going to have to move it to a larger, deeper pot earlier than I thought!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dill: AKA Spearsleymeg

Dill, or Anethum graveolens, has two different word origins. It's botanical name anethum comes from Dioscorides (a very well-known Greek herbalist) in his pharmacopoeias, he refers to a plant which he calls anethon. Many believe that dill was what he was referring to based on his in-depth description of the plant. The common name comes from the Norse word "dilla" which meant to soothe.
Dill is a very tough annual herb from the Umbelliferacae family, which can be almost stubborn at times. I know personally trying to uproot a dead dill at the end of the season was one of my toughest battles in the garden this past season. It originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe and in the southern Russian region and made its way around the world from there. It is well-known for its wispy leaves, dominant flavor and umbels of bright yellow blooms. It is a wonderful companion plant with onions, cabbage, lettuce, and cucumbers, and is well-known for attracting beneficial insects with its alluring blooms. Dill is not recommended as a companion for carrots and tomatoes. A very happy dill plant can reach heights of almost five feet within a season! The herb prefers well-drained soil in full sun and is prone to tipping over once it gets taller, so staking may be needed.

Dill has had many uses throughout history (what herb hasn't?): In Egypt, according to records, it was used in a pain-killing medicine by doctors. Romans would adorn returning war heroes with a crown of dill, since dill was considered an herb of luck. It was a sign of wealth to the Greeks. The Norse warriors would drink dill tea before battle to ensure their luck in battle. A reading from the Gospel of Matthew tells us that the Jews of biblical times used dill along with mint as a payment of tithes (taxes): "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hyprocites! You tithe with mint, dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law..." In the medieval times, mystics would wear a satchel of dried dill over their heart to ward off the "evil eye" or bad magick. It was thought that if you served a witch dill tea, she would be robbed of her powers. In puritan times of the North American settlers, the dill seed was chewed on during long sermons to stave off hunger and came to be known as the "Meeting House Seed". Dill infusions or "gripe water" became a treatment for colicky children because of its abilities to help with indigestion. Remember the discussion of the language of flowers in Japan and in the Victorian era? Well, these "tussie-mussies" (as they were called in the Victorian era) included dill, which was an herb meant to convey the sentiment of good cheer.
Tussie-mussies: the Victorian precursor to modern-day texting.
Dill has its place in witchcraft as well, thought to be an herb of the god Mercury/Hermes, the speedy messenger god. As such, the herb is thought to be infused with the element of air and is thought to help speed up your thinking. Remember the famous lines of Macbeth?
"Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
    Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the caldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
    Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
    Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,—
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble." 
...well, they don't mention dill in there. BUT, Shakespeare WAS mentioning many other different types of herbs! This language that he used is what is known as the herbal code. Herbalists/magicians would use coded phrases to discuss their recipes rather than plainly state what they used. For example, "tounge of dog" was code for hounds tounge and "adder's fork" was a plantain (the plant, NOT the fruit). Dill was very important in this herbal code, having many different codes such as "Seed of Hermes" for dill and "Hair of a Hamadryas Baboon" for dill seed.
^Not this^                                                            ^THIS^
I would be remiss if I did not mention the most common area of dill use: the kitchen! Dill and its seed are used thoroughly in the kitchen, though not just with fish as most people would think of immediately. Dill is suggested as a wonderful compliment to: eggs, pork, lamb, chicken, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes....AND THE LIST GOES ON! Dill leaves, seeds and flowers are vital in the flavoring of pickles. For those looking at decreasing their salt intake, crush some dill seed on your next meal instead of sprinkling some salt! In Lao cuisine, dill is known as Laotian coriander and is used in different curried dishes. Dill is also an herb used in the following cuisines: Arabian, Indian, Vietnamese, Iranian, Thai.

Medicinally, dill has a variety of uses: making an infusion of dill seeds is great for indigestion, the hiccups, for insomnia, or even as a nail-strengthener. What makes dill oil good for indigestion is its antispasmodic qualities, which calm the muscles of the digestive system. The essential oil of dill contains four different compounds: carvone, myristicin, and dillapiole. Carvone, as discussed in my post about mint, smells strongly of spearmint. Myristicin is a compound found in parsley, dill and in larger quantities in nutmeg. Dillapiole is a compound that has the flavor similar to parsley.

I know that the last chemical discussion was a bit silly to mention, but I thought it was quite interesting to see that essentially, dill is nutmeg, parsley and mint mixed together! So next time that you taste some "Hair of the Hamadryas Baboon", see if your finely-tuned palette can detect those three distinct flavors!