Summer Travels & Heat Wave Garden Recovery

I’m back in Brooklyn after a trip out to California to see family and speak on a local foods panel. While I was away, I gorged on locally grown avocados, citrus, almonds, and other stuff that can’t survive our Northeastern winters.

A couple of days after I arrived in San Francisco to stay with my dad, pianist Kelly Johnson,

dadI spoke on a panel with fellow local food authors Deborah Madison and Jessica Prentice, moderated by Temra Costa and hosted by the Commonwealth Club. What a wonderful group of feisty, eloquent, passionate ladies! I was honored to be among them.

After that, Dad and I drove up to Yreka where my mom, Penelope Lagios Coberly, her husband, Frank Coberly, and my grandma, Eugenia Kilgore¬† live. Yreka is about as far north as you can go and still be in California. The official reason for the visit was my grandma’s 98th birthday.

Yia-yia, a.k.a. Grandma Nea was born in SF, but she identifies as Greek. So we cooked Greek: hortopita (like spanakopita–spinach pie–except with whatever green you want to use. Horta means edible greens), eggplant dip, local olives, plus galaktobureko for dessert.

There are two designated lawnmowers who have recently joined my mom’s household, Bertbert and Ernie.ernie

Frank, my mom’s husband, has a drum set. He invited Nea to have a go. First he got on the drums while she played keyboard.¬† w-frankThen my 98-year old grandmother rocked out on the drums.drums-concentrateddrums-smile

drums-final

After that it was back to SF, where Dad and I cooked for friends. I improvised a mushroom soup using some of the stash of dried wild mushrooms that I’d given him last fall. We also did a seafood salad, and a feta cheese-dried tomato dip. But the real star of the show was Dad’s peach custard pie.

On my last day out west I experimented with a peach salsa recipe that I plan to use for the cooking demos I’m doing for The Edible Garden at NYBG. We picked up the peaches at a farm stand on theway down from Yreka, but I had to run to the supermarket for a few ingredients. While online at the checkout, I saw a magazine called Urban Farm touting the benefits of sustainable city living. That made me grin. The times, they are a changing…

Back in Brooklyn, I dealt with garden devastation. Although my housesitter did an admirable job of watering my container plants, that didn’t compensate for the 3-digit heat wave and lack of rain while I was away. My first round of tomatoes are lost to blossom end rot (from uneven watering). I spent today pruning out brown, brown, brown–black cohosh blossoms that crisped before they ever opened, toasted ostrich ferns…well, I’m going to stop because the full catalog of loss would make me cry. Out on the street, there were so many brown leaves littering the sidewalk that it looked more like October than summer.

I lost most of my cucumber plants. I don’t need to grow cukes for salads, etc. because my CSA farmer Ted Blomgren of Windflower Farm gives me plenty. I grow them to make cornichons pickles because there’s no other way to get the tiny, pinkie finger-sized cucumbers I need for those.

As a consolation prize, I picked up some sour cherries at the farmers’ market today and am making pickled cherries.

But my raspberries, asparagus plants, and a few others were impervious to the heat wave. And some plants bounced back after I gave them a deep watering yesterday. All is not lost.

While I clean up the garden and pray for rain, I’m enjoying the memories of three generations of my family getting to spend time together. trio

If you have a chance next Weds. 14th, come to one of the two events I’m doing. I’ll be demonstrating (and handing out samples of) Dilly Beans and signing books at the Union Square Greenmarket from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. That evening, I’ll be doing a discussion/reading on how to eat local on a budget at Bluestockings bookstore from 7-8 p.m.

The Locavore’s Handbook: The Busy Person’s Guide to Eating Local on a Budget by Leda Meredith

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith