Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thinking of warmer times...

I put together this succulent collection last spring and enjoyed it all summer. It greeted our guests by the front door! Echeverias and various other succulent beauties, with some nice pieces of glass tucked in to pick up the rays of the sun. I brought it inside this fall before the cold hit, and it makes a great indoor piece of art as well. I'll be sprucing it up soon for another summer in the sun!
I'll be making more of these this spring to sell at some local markets.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Simple Pantry

For this post I want to talk about simplicity in the kitchen. I have been striving to continue this simplicity in my own kitchen at home.

The Italian kitchen is one of simplicity, order, and embibes a deep appreciation and respect for the food found therein. Many are quite small and unassuming. The ingredients that reside in the pantry day-to-day are mostly dry ingredients - beans, pasta, biscuits for breakfasts and baking ingredients. No energy bars, snacks packed with sugars and preservatives or chips. In fact, very few snack foods are present in the Italian pantry (Becuase people there do not consantly snack, they eat sit-down meals, or grab a snack in a bar (cafe) with other commumity members). The refrigerators are small and hold essentials like milk, eggs and yogurt. Real milk, eggs and yogurt. No fancy flavored 'gogurts', very few sauces, no 'diet' anything. Only the real deal. Glass jars and bottles are reused, holding oil, vinegar, and acqua frizzante. Produce is usually collected from the garden or cold storage area, or purchased that day at the local family grocer. The food always takes love and care to prepare, and you can taste it. Fresh bread is either handmade or purchased fresh each day from the local panetteria. The family sits down to eat - all together - nearly every lunch and dinner of every day. Meals are savored, 'buono' is utter by full mouths while loud talking, laughing, and the occasional political debate ensues. It is a wonderful thing.

Now, I am back in my kitchen in Seattle. I have tried to restructure the way I purchase, store, and respect food. Here are some ways that I am merging Italy with the wonderful bounty of local food the Puget Sound has to offer:

1) Buy bulk dried beans, lentils, seeds, nuts and baking products.
2) Reuse glass jars to store bulk items and reuse plastic bags each time you purchase bulk goods at the store.
3) Try not to waste any food that you purchase or prepare. I eat all of my leftovers, and I freeze what I can't eat within the next
few days for the next week.
4) Grown and harvest as much produce from the garden as you can, and try to use it all. If you've got a few items in the pantry
that you don't think you can use, wash them, slice them and freeze them for later use.
5) Use a 'cold storage' area. Basement, shed, or a secure outdoor storage area.
6) Purchase only a few essential items at the store. I try to get my most of my produce from the garden or local farmers
markets. This is more difficult in the winter so I've been eating a lot of potatoes, carrots, dried beans, etc.

The benefits to these practices are many: I have saved heaps of money (bulk is cheap, free vegetables are cheaper), I've reduced the amount of waste that I generate from food production, my pantry is clean and organized and stays fuller longer due to a diverse assemblage of dried bulk items, I have been eating more diversely and having a great time being creative and cooking foods slowly, and I eat more slowly and carefully, appreciating where my food has come from - be it my parents garden or some other farmer's soil out in the Puget lowlands.

Above are some pictures of the kitchen and pantry of Laura and Pietro, my gracious hosts in one little village in the hills of Tuscany. Thier home was a 150-year old farmhouse complete with a beautiful woodfire oven and the cutest little pantry I've ever seen. Notice the small size, fresh produce in baskets, fresh oil, and best of all enough room for a well-stocked wine rack!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

greenearthbloom - Creating unique gardens that encourage sustainability, biodiversity and beauty.

It's official, I've launched my business - greenearthbloom!
For the last few years I have been designing home gardens on a very small scale. Now that I'm, 'official' I hope to continue expanding on my passion of creating beautiful, low-maintenance landscape designs, tranquil and beautiful. I focus on 'right plant, right place' principles, sustainability, and water-wise design techniques. In addition, I create kitchen gardens that inspire people to actively participate in their own food production. I will continue to share ideas, books, events, and my garden life on this blog.

I am a strong advocate of taking gentle care of our small corners of this earth in order to preserve local plants, food and culture to foster a more unique, biodiverse world. I hope that my business will encourage individuals to interact with their gardens and the earth, and to consider the positive impact that their spaces can make on both a local and global ecological scale.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grocery Gardening

I got a new book today that I'm really excited about - Grocery Gardening - Planting, Preparing and Preserving Fresh Food, By Jean Ann Van Krevelen. After experiencing the thriftiness of Italian family farms, one of my goals this spring is to grow absolutely as much of my own food as possible. I resolution of sorts. Another effort I will make is to 'put up' or preserve as much food as I can to eat throughout the winter. This book will be a great companion during my efforts. In addition to tips on how to grow everything from blueberries to beans, it contains great recipes and methods for preserving your harvest. It contains creative methods for vegetable gardening in small spaces, as well a handy disease/pest identification and treatment guide. I will be sifting through this book over the next few weeks as I plan my garden for this upcoming spring. I just love doing this during the cold winter months.

One can never be too early to plan the garden...