Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'm having babies!

(Green babies, that is.)

Of course, these are the sort of babies that will get eaten...

I started my first wave of hot-weather seedlings a few days ago, and some are already up. Genovese Basil, a few Pink tomatos, a San Marzano tomato, and a Japanese Black Trifele tomato are peeking up with their wee cotyledons. No sign yet from my various peppers, but they usually take over a week. Nor is there any sign of my 2008 experiment, finocchio.

Finocchio (F. vulgare azoricum) is also called Florence fennel. You eat the bulb. It looks rather like a squashed, rounded head of celery, but with feathery leaves like dill. As the plant grows, you mound dirt around the base to protect the bulb from light so it will blanch. Finocchio likes a very rich growing medium, which I'm sure my worms will be more than happy to provide.

Finocchio is incredibly delicious; it has a vaguely nutty licorice flavor, and when roasted, it turns sort of sweet. I cook it simply- slice, toss with salt and olive oil, and roast it under a broiler. It's outstanding when roasted with sliced potatoes.

Last summer, my husband and I discovered an abiding passion for basil pesto. I've eaten it with disregard and without complaint; I've never loved the stuff. Then I read that basil TYPE makes a big difference in the pesto. In retrospect, that finding was a big, fat no duh.

So far, Genovese basil is our favorite for pesto. It has enormous leaves, easy to chop. The leaves have a savory, smoky flavor, and not much of that peppery taste found in Thai basil (which I don't care for at all). We ate so much of the Genovese pesto last year, by the end of August we were actually sick of it. This year, I will probably attempt to oil-preserve some, even though I find the commercial bottled stuff truly vile.

For me now, basil pesto is the embodiment of seasonal food; it's the food you pine for in deep winter and grow to hate by late summer. In other words, food bliss.


Rabbits' Guy said...

You have fine faith in the future weather there! I'm sure it will cooperate and all the stuff will grow like crazy in July and the eats will be worth it.

Tomatoes are like your pesto, for me.

Grant said...

Seeing how much you and others have gotten done already makes me realize how far behind I am. Other than the few seedlings I've got growing on the window sill, I've got nothing else started at all. I've just been so busy lately! I feel like I'm getting close to caught up with life though, so perhaps I can get some seeds started this weekend and perhaps construct at least one of my raised beds. So much to do!

ilex said...

You still good, Grant. You get a much longer season at the far end of summer for cold crops than I do. Start your hot weather crops this weekend, though!

You'll be amazed at how much you've learned by the end of this year, and how much better your garden will be in 2009.

heather t said...

waaaaaait a doggone second there... are you really early with your seed starts or am i running much later than i thought?

I usually start seeds by early to mid-april so I can put them in the ground by mid-end of may.

when do you put your 'maters outside???


ilex said...

Hiya Heather- Officially my zone is 6a, but I'm also in a heat island (urban, lots of concrete). I sure my zone is higher than that now, what with all the zone creep in the last few years.

I can usually put out my hot crop plants by the end of April. They get some protection with hoops and agribon if it gets too chilly at night, or a two-liter bottle "cloche" if they are still small enough. Tomatoes and peppers can take nighttime temps down into the 30's if they're protected from frost.

Spinning Girl said...

Yay for growing things!!!

L.Bo Marie said...

... continues to shovel....
(but now fueled with dreams of fresh pesto)

heather t said...

Thanks for replying! I would not have thought we were in different zones, but I am indeedy in zone 6b. Huh.

That said, I'll probably be running two weeks behind anyway. :D

heather t said...

duh, 5b