Voice: Lost and Found

Greens delicate, spicy, gorgeous along with arugula flowers which provide a peppery snap

Greens delicate, spicy, gorgeous along with arugula flowers which provide a peppery snap

Hello again. It’s me. I’ve gone missing since early February, at least from this page. Those who’ve been blogging much longer than I have already know what I’ve discovered: use that voice or lose it.

For a host of very good but also not very good reasons, I’ve not written here for the past five weeks or so. I’ve missed the writing and I’ve missed the visiting that happens afterwards. I’ve missed these things much more than I ever thought I would when I first started this blog. The longer I went without starting or, in some cases, finishing a post, the harder it was to find my voice, my words. They were working full time in other parts of my life and my work and when I called upon them here, they shook their heads, turned their backs on me, and punched out on the time clock.

Then, my friend Sue called me up and asked me if I wanted some greens from her garden. I said sure. When Sue calls and asks me if I want anything from her garden, I always say yes. I’ll have more to say on this subject very soon. For the moment, though, let me show you the “few greens” that Sue brought me:

Sue doesn't just give me greens, she presents them on a tray

Sue doesn’t just give me greens, she presents them on a tray

Lettuces, fennel, kale, celery, arugula and arugula flowers which turn out to be delicious as well as pretty.

Greens delicate, spicy, gorgeous along with arugula flowers which provide a peppery snap

Greens delicate, spicy, gorgeous along with arugula flowers which provide a peppery snap

A little later she brought me some sweet peas which are not edible but sure smell nice.

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Today, my friend Polly gave me a dozen eggs. They were tan, perfect, and freshly laid by her four hens. “The girls have been busy,” she said when I wondered how she could spare so many.

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My friends didn’t just give me food, they gave me tonight’s meal and tomorrow’s breakfast and enough eggs to make a ricotta pie this weekend.

The gifts are like my friends: generous, beautiful, and so nourishing to body and soul. Without realizing it, they gave me everything I needed to write this post. The words came easily. There are only two that really matter:

Thank you.

Here’s how I dined tonight.

I turned some of Sue’s greens, fennel fronds, and the arugula flowers into a chopped salad. I chopped up some of my own mint and basil to add to the mix. Chunks of avocado, a little squeeze of lime, a drizzle of olive oil and some of the nasturtiums that finally showed up this year in my backyard.

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Notice the arugula blossom waiting for my first bite:

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The kale and what Sue calls her “spicy greens” made a great sautee. Olive oil, a little garlic and a bit of shredded parmesan:

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Lunch With Friends

IMG_0322I ate some old friends for lunch today.

It’s the only way to get rid of them. They keep coming back like relatives you miss until they come and stay for months, or the chatty kind of people you try to evade at parties but just can’t. Everywhere you turn, there they are, all bright, happy, and softhearted — the kind you just can’t say no to — and they know it.

I’m talking about nasturtiums. I planted a few one year – I don’t know when. It doesn’t matter. If you say yes to a packet of nasturtium seeds, you will be living with the results for the rest of your life and beyond. The generations springing from that one packet will thrive long after you’re gone.

The term ‘invasive’ does not begin to describe the goings on among the nasturtiums in my backyard. These guys have no respect for boundaries, they sprout, climb, spill over the retaining wall, and completely smother the diedes I planted to add a little structure, a little class to the place.

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Nasturtiums thrive on neglect which is, as it happens, is the cornerstone of my gardening strategy. Then, just when they’re really getting out of hand, they do something charming, like blossom. First a yellow one, then an orange, sometimes a red. They hide among the leaves and then peek out like flirts until one morning you wake up and the whole tangle is ablaze. It’s kind of like a slow-motion floral fireworks display that marks the coming and going of spring here in California. Plus, they hide the weeds.

How can you hate that?

I don’t really. I’m just not comfortable with what they tell visitors about my gardening habits. Clearly the nasturtiums are in control of the landscape, not me. But I tell people I planted them for food. Each blossom harbors a sweet, juicy burst which somehow goes perfectly with the peppery petals. Harvest happens when I let the dog out or when I feel like making a salad.

So, for a few months every year, I let them have their way. The first leaves sprout in December or January and they just sort of poke along, getting bigger and greener. The blossoms start to appear in March and by the end of April or early May, they explode into color. I eat as many as I can and then yank them out.

They don’t care. They always come back.

Lunch:

I added my friends to a salad of greens, fennel, goat cheese and toasted pignoli nuts. Chop up the stems too – they are delicious!

Lunch with my friends

Lunch with my friends

PS: Turns out there are all kinds of ways to use these babies. Here some of the ones I found. If you try any, let me know how they turned out!

Nasturtium pesto!

http://bloomsandfood.com/2012/05/31/nasturtium-pesto-lower-food-miles-version-recipe/

http://www.rootsimple.com/2011/05/nasturtium-flower-and-pistachio-pesto-a-story-in-pictures/

Soup!

http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-potato-nasturtium-leaf-soup

Lots of other ways to eat ’em
http://www.yummly.com/recipes/nasturtium