On hops and brewing

It has been a couple years since I have done a column on hops and beer. Two things prompted me to do this today. First of all, as I drove from Genesee to William streets — and believe me, navigating Genesee Street these days is a whole lot more challenging than writing my column — I saw the fantastic mural being worked on, on the side of The Good Shepherds Brewing Co., the home of Sheps Beer. Congratulations to Garrett and Bob. I am sure that you will continue to fit right into the Auburn scene. The mural is going to be fantastic once completed. Secondly, I wanted to show my editor, David Wilcox, who writes wonderful columns about our favorite brews, that he is not the only one able to cover the beer beat.

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Ketchup and mustard are staples of summer.

I cannot imagine a summer without them. Life would become very boring. Yes, our hot dogs and hamburgers and sausages would be edible, but boring. We need our mustards, ketchups (or is it catsup) and relishes. Where would we be without our chopped onions on the hot dogs, or slices of tomato and onion on hamburgers? And, if you are like me, a sausage on a roll is bland until you slather it with onions and peppers.

Today, we’ll talk about ketchup and mustard. They are both plant-based and you could, if you had the patience, create them from the vegetables in your garden, at least some of them. But then, it is so much easier to stop by the supermarket and select our needs, though you would miss the satisfaction of “I made it myself,” and in many cases they would taste better.

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The perks of gardening in pots

I do hope that the garden is coming along well. So far, I think that other than the need for a little rain, the weather is cooperating with us. If you haven’t completed your planting, this week is a good one to finish the job. By mid-June, vendors are trying to cut their inventories, and sales that will continue through the rest of the month have begun. Sure, prices will continue to drop, but so too will selection and quality. I would not wait too long.

But now, a few words about patio and even balcony gardening. Over the centuries, we have seen the use of containers as garden accents rise and fall in popularity. There were times in ancient Rome when every residence had plants in pots, not only in the house in wintertime but in outside living areas during the warm weather. I think that container gardening peaked during the Victorian era in England. It comes and goes, and right now it is in.

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Foraging for burdocks and more

Today I saw some “ramps” in the supermarket. They were $14.99 a pound. Ramps are a small, flavorful wild leek.

The burdocks are late this year, by nearly three weeks. I suspect that our crazy winter weather had a lot to do with it. No matter what, I will have Jessica cook up a great side dish for me some night this week. I will give you the recipe a bit later.

Foraging for plants was an everyday occurrence a generation ago. It was an important part of nearly every first-generation family’s diet. There were a lot of reasons for its popularity. First of all, many folks who immigrated to our shores were from the poorest parts of the poorest countries in Europe. They were used to leaving the comfort of home and going into the countryside, looking for edible foods. Many of those people grew up with diets that were meatless, or nearly so. They were used to vegetables that they collected in the countryside.

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Why mulch matters.

If you do not believe that mulching is important, or if you wonder if you’ll be the only one in your neighborhood to do it, I would say, “take a ride.” Drive by Home Depot or Lowe’s and see the piles and piles of bags of mulch. Drive by various garden centers and see the piles of mulch, ready to load into your pickup. All this mulch is there because people are buying and using it. And all that bark mulch is only the tip of the iceberg. There are rock and gravel mulches, shredded leaf foliage (from last fall’s rakings) and plastic mulch. There is mulch made from shredded automobile tires. Some folks use old carpets, straw and even shredded newspaper to do the job.

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Thoughts on Meghan Markle’s royal wedding bouquet

Yes, the royal wedding is over and done with. It was a real bash. Reportedly, it cost some $45 million to pull it off. Just like your daughter’s wedding? I understand, and believe, that a major part of the money was spent on security. Thankfully, there were no problems. But they did save money on the bride’s bouquet. Prince Harry went into the gardens at Kensington Palace and picked the flowers and took them over to the flower shop. That line is tongue-in-cheek, because I think that romantic gesture was outstanding and loving.

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Why the royal wedding probably featured peonies

 As you read this column, the festivities are probably already underway in London for the marriage of American actress Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. I would guess that it will be quite a bash. Although there are only about 600 invited guests, the whole area around the church and, indeed, much of London will be in a turmoil. I cannot imagine what the florists are doing right now and have been doing for several days.

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Let the Buyer Beware

To begin with, let me explain. I am not writing this to build my own business because there are four other reputable florists in this community.

Yes, this is the time of they year when I write a few words about buying flowers for Mom on Mother’s Day. Since so many of us work or live miles and miles from our Moms, it is a time of the year when there are a lot of scams out there. It is the time of year that most flowers are ordered to be delivered to different cities or states. There are some that simply take your money and run. Others skillfully build that offer for 2 dozen roses for $29.95 into a bill that often exceeds $79.95 or more. Continue reading

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Unlikely Partners

It sure has been a busy week here at home. We are trying to get the back yard cleaned up and the pond drained. I am seeing that we are going to be doing a lot of painting in my Italian Garden this summer. I am sure that a lot of my gardening readers are out there, raking the leaves, those that we did not get up in the fall, from under the evergreens, pruning off dead branches on roses and other flowering shrubs. In a couple of weeks, it will be time to give the whole place, lawns, flower beds and shrubbery an early dose of fertilizer. Be sure to pick the right one for each area. Personally, I like one of the Scott’s weed and feed for the early application on my lawn. But, with all the work today, there was a great reward, one of my Forsythia bushes had thrown a couple of large branches, full of buds ready to burst, that needed severe pruning. My living room will be brightened with a lot of yellow blossoms in a day or two.

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Is It an Herb or a Spice?

You might be surprised at how often that question comes up. The answer is quite simple, and at the same time complex. Generally speaking, herbs are made from the leafy part of a plant, while spices come from any other part. Spices are best described as the dried parts of aromatic plants.  Many spices are not only valuable for cooking, they are indispensable in the world of medicine. While we find herbs growing across the world, spices are usual found in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Indonesia and East Africa provide the world with many of those spices that we can not do without.


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