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News From Home

by Janice Cook Knight

Welcome to my blog, News from Home.  Join me in our Santa Barbara kitchen for favorite recipes and cooking adventures, whether it's drying persimmons in the fall or making rose syrup in spring.   Follow me around the garden for foods  at the peak of ripeness.   My husband Jim and I grow bananas, blood oranges, sapotes, pomegranates - about forty fruit trees in all, plus a changing array of vegetables, herbs and greens.  And join me in the yard and neighborhood for animal visitations, whether it's ducklings in spring, owls hooting at night, or to find out what's scratching at the door of our chicken coop - and so far can't get in (a bobcat)?
  • Writer's pictureby Janice Cook Knight

The Season of Nasturtums

Spring in Santa Barbara

It’s June, the season of the nasturtiums.  The rose season is just past, at least in our yard, or until the next bloom cycle.  It always seems that May brings the most roses, all blooming at once.  But now nasturtiums are everywhere; I see them when I walk or drive around the neighborhood, spread in partial shade under native oaks. We don’t have many at our house, though, just a few tucked in under a tall hedge along our driveway.

I love their spicy color more than their spicy flavor, though I do love my friend Pat’s recipe for nasturtium pesto.  Consequently I just planted nasturtium seeds under two live oaks, where I hope eventually they will make an orange, yellow and red carpet under the rope hammock. It’s a blissful spot to spend a warm summer day, with a book.  Or maybe no book – just a nap.  The hum of the bees will lull you to sleep.

It’s the season of the yarrow, which is blooming in our meadow.  It’s mostly a soft white, though when we planted the seed it was supposed to come up magenta; there are just a few of those.  It is the season of birthdays in our family:  three of our children have their birthdays in June.  It’s the season of graduations, endings, but also beginnings: season of the beginning of summer. 

It’s the season of dahlia plants, which are just springing up in our garden.  I just planted a few more, rather late, but they will just bloom later in the season.  With luck, we’ll have them through October.  I had so many bulbs after I divided my old ones that I couldn’t plant them all, must give some away.  Oh, to have dahlias everywhere! But the reality of preparing beds for more of them is too much work and fuss right now.

It’s the season of hydrangeas swelling; a few have bloomed, but most of ours have only spread their spectacular leaves. Hydrangeas will forever remind me of my grandmother’s huge plants outside her living room window on Vancouver Island, large spiders dangling among the pale pink and blue flowers.

It’s the beginning of the season of resting, those lazy days of summer, which have not seemed to find their way to our house enough lately.  Then I remember: June is always like this, there are too many events ushering out the end of the school year (just as its opposite, December is crazy-busy too.)  Those lazy days might not appear until late July, or August.

It’s still the season of planting:  we’re late this year.  We’re still picking the last of the favas, planted in March, and have only planted a few tomatoes. We’re still harvesting asparagus, though not as often as we did in May, and we have quite a few blood oranges, meyer lemons, a few grapefruit, and our first Haas avocados. In a few more weeks will come the nectarines (Panamint), apricots (Blenheim), and peaches (Red Baron). We pick blackberries and boysenberries every morning, and the tiny mulberries from the weeping mulberry trees are getting sweet.  In July there will be many more.

I’d like to plant some beans and hills of squash, and more tomatoes this next week.  Never mind about making the garden beds perfect, and arranging the stones in a spiral pattern on the sunny hill where we make our summer garden – got to get those babies in the ground!  Funny, not getting things planted is making me rather anxious.  I have to remind myself that it’s okay, I’m off to a writing workshop later this month, and that writing is a nurturing process in itself.  I’m gardening a book, which takes time and attention, and if I have to take a little break from actual gardening, there’s another season a’coming.  And, there is always our farmer’s market, the lazy (or busy) gardener’s saving grace.

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