Category Archives: gardening

Peppers popping

Time-lapse of two small peppers ripening from green to bright orange.
The peppers ripen amazingly fast once they get started.

One minor success of our summer garden has been the pepper plants. They haven’t produced a lot of peppers, but the ones they’ve made have been crispy and super sweet. Apologies for the shaky camera – it was hard to keep a steady viewpoint with the phone poised on a head of fast-growing lettuce. (Memo to self: maybe use a monopod next time?)

Growing Shiso

The first month of our shiso plants. Left: green shiso; right: red shiso.

This season I got a head start on the garden, and also started branching out with some interesting-sounding seed packets from local growers. One herb I absolutely love, but have only ever seen in Japanese food, is shiso leaf. I wanted to see if we could grow it here, and what else we could do with it besides roll it in sushi. So far it’s been a raging success: a ridiculous number of sprouts have come up, seemingly twice as many as the seeds I planted. The leaves are gorgeous and super aromatic. Really looking forward to seeing what we can make out of this later in the year!

It’s also really fantastic on avocado toast. Left: with pepitas, ancho chile flakes, and cilantro from the garden. Right: with sesame and red shiso.

Bread and Butter Pickles

When life gives you gherkins, you make bread-and-butter pickles. At least, that’s what I’ve been doing. I started with this recipe, but as usual, had to modify it based on what we happened to have in our spice rack. I made a few rookie moves, like using the mandoline bare-handed (and let me tell you, that’s a mistake you’ll only make once. Those things are vicious!) But the pickles are so worth it. Sweet and spicy, great with a sandwich, or just straight out of the jar in your pyjamas (not that I’d ever do that, no sir.)

Four gherkins picked fresh from the vine.
These fresh gherkins have an amazing flavor, almost sweet, even the weird-looking yellow ones.
Sliced gherkins in a bowl.
Finally got an excuse to use the zigzag blade on the mandoline!
Spices and vinegar in the saucepan.
Cinnamon, turmeric, clove, cardamom, mustard seed, white peppercorns, chili flakes.
Gherkins and onions simmering in the pickling syrup.
3 pint jars of bread-and-butter pickles.
Two 5-inch gherkins, with 1/2 cup of pickling syrup, will just about fill one pint jar.

Growing and shrinking

Some gherkins grow, others shrink…

Our new hand-built garden enclosure seems to be doing its job perfectly: we used wire mesh (or hardware cloth as the pros call it) with 1/2″ holes, too small for rats and mice to crawl through, but still plenty of room for the bees that have been happily pollinating our cucumber flowers.

Vegetable gardening and timelapse photography turn out to be an amazingly good match, because they both seem to make me pay attention to tiny details that would otherwise escape my notice. I never thought much about male and female flowers before, but on this gherkin plant it’s really obvious which ones are which: the males have pointy petals, and the females come equipped with a proto-fruit, ready for seed. Much less obvious is how they behave after pollination: some fruits grow, some shrivel up immediately, and others grow for a while, and then seem to give up halfway and start shrinking again. (I’ve read that this last case is what happens when there are some fertilized seeds, but not enough to fill the entire fruit.)

Here’s that big gherkin from the timelapse above. It was delicious.