Roses and a recipe

Spring is wonderful because it is full of flowers that are brave enough to push up and bare their faces to the chilly days. They dare us to forget the dark winter months, and how could we not in the company of daffodils? Some flowers, though, wait until the season is well underway, even turning slightly sultry. When I see roses, I know that things have finally started to heat up and Summer is on its way.Image

Then I begin to panic at the number of seedlings still in the greenhouse, and I wonder how much longer I can grow lettuce without it wanting to bolt immediately.

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We have a more or less year-round gardening season, because our winters are quite mild. The summers, however, are relentlessly hot and dry, so they are the real challenge. There are many plants that will just grind to a halt when it gets much over 90 F, and lettuce won’t even germinate once the soil gets too warm.

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Now that we have daytime temperatures in the 80s, it feels like the clock is ticking. In a couple of months, we’ll be hoping for anything under 100! These days are a bit of a scramble.
When we’re very busy in the garden, I like to make food I don’t have to think much about. Curried Beef and Tomato Noodles is a great favorite of Baki and Ali’s, and it’s a great way to stretch a small amount of meat (as I discovered when it turned out I had one small steak to feed three people). My mom used to make it all the time, and I’m pretty sure this is more or less how she taught me to do it.
You need:
Noodles- wheat flour noodles, egg or not. (if you’re in the Pacific NW, you can get my family’s all-time favorite, Rose Brand noodles)
Neutral tasting oil for frying
Soy sauce
A steak
A bunch of green onions
1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used canned because tomatoes are meaningless at this time of year)
1 to 2 T curry powder (I like Sun Brand)

Here’s what you do:
1. Put the steak in the freezer.
2. Cook the noodles. If you can do this in advance, it helps- a few hours us fine, and overnight works too. Rice and noodles fry better when they’re not all hot and starchy.
3. Stir fry the noodles in batches in a big hot wok. To do this, get the wok hot and add about 2 T oil. Put in a third of the noodles and stir to coat in the oil. Let the noodles sit a while, so they get a bit browned. Stir them up again and then let them sit. Repeat a few times, then add about 1T soy sauce and stir it in for color. Put the noodles in a big bowl as you finish cooking them.
4. Get your steak out of the freezer and slice it really thinly- freezing it first makes this easy. Then toss it with the curry powder.
5. Chop the green onion into 1/2 in slices, greens and whites. Chop up your tomatoes too.
6. You are about ten minutes from done now. Get that wok hot again and add 1T oil. Stir fry the onions and add them to the noodles.
7. Put 1/3 of the seasoned meat in the wok and cook. Don’t forget to let it sit a little to brown it. Add to the bowl and repeat with the rest of the meat, adding oil as necessary.
8. By now the wok is probably a bit crusty. So tip in the tomatoes and stir them around to get all the bits off the wok. Let the tomatoes cook until they are saucy, then tip the whole big bowl of noodles and meat and onions and all back into the wok. Stir it all up and you’re ready to eat.

These instructions may be a bit verbose, but it’s easy and it goes fast (frying the noodles is the longest bit).

Kaya made a lunge for one of my noodles at the table, so I gave it to him and he frantically opened and closed his hands when he had finished. Baki took more than he could eat, so I let Kaya have his bowl. When he was done meticulously picking every noodle out, he stuck his whole face in.

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Another noodle fan in the family.

Color theory

I’m sure that Gertrude Jekyll has something far more illuminating to say on the topic, but here’s my take on colors in the garden:

One is nice:

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(Red flax and our liquidambar tree)

Two is dandy:

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(lavender and queen Ann’s lace under the apricot tree)

But things really get cooking when you have three:

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(California poppies, red and blue flax by an olive tree)

Peekaboo!

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I saw it from afar, as I was watering the bitter melon- a bit of red peeking out from between the leaves of one of the Momotaro tomato plants. We’ve been eating tomatoes for a couple of weeks already, but I’ve been waiting for the Momotaros. It’s a Japanese hybrid that is apparently a popular market variety. I saw it in the Territorial Seeds catalog back in 2009, and somehow ordered them too late to plant them last year. So it was very exciting to be growing them at last. The plants have gotten huge, with enticing clusters of hard green tomatoes. We ate that first tomato for breakfast with a bit of olive oil, and I’m pleased to report that it was very tasty and, as the seed catalog had promised, very sweet.

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We’ve more or less eaten all the corn on this bed, and for some reason it didn’t grow all that tall. I planted some beans under them, though, so I’ll leave them standing for a while. The nicest thing about this bed is all those morning glories- three different kinds. It is one of the many spontaneous eruptions in the garden that so often outshine plantings that we have carefully thought out.

Black currant fizz…

… is the name of this lovely opium poppy, being scrutinized here by Baki and my mom:

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The seeds were from Thompson & Morgan; I picked them up in London in December. They always tell you on the seed packets that poppies hate being transplanted, so you ought to direct-sow them. We sowed these in paper pots and then transplanted them; there are so many weeds, we rarely sow flower seeds directly. Anyway, I believe that there isn’t a plant on Earth that relishes being transplanted. It’s like babies, though- some plants let you get away with it and they don’t complain, while others make sure they get exactly what they want (if that makes any sense at all).
Here is a closer look:

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Cut flowers

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“You guys don’t know what to do with cut flowers,” my mother said when she saw some cut snapdragons in a glass with no water in it. Ali had cut them so that I could smell them; they were supposed to be scented and it turned out they were.
She’s right- we love to grow flowers, and we really enjoy them in the garden, but we hardly ever cut them. I also possess an uncanny ability to take any bunch if flowers, no matter how lovely or well composed, and make a complete mess of them. So it is really lovely to find little arrangements of cut flowers everywhere. My mother is keeping well on top of cutting the sweetpeas before they can set seed, which means more flowers for longer, and lovely scented corners in every room
And on a completely unrelated note, here is Kaya charming his daddy.

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