"Be not an abomination to the Bees and Butterflies and then your garden shall know the enchantment

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chamorro Finadene - Island Sauce for EVERYTHING

Finedene Sauce is to Guam what ketchup is to the mainland as a condiment but with a lot more nutritional value and flavor.  It hits all the right notes; tart, tangy, slightly salty, spicy, and just plain tasty! I first tasted Finedene Sauce at what used to be the Georgia Street Grill and thankfully Cindy at The Good Day Café kept serving this sauce when she bought the restaurant.                                Chamorro cooking is one that I am planning to add to my repertoire this summer
Chamorro People, 1915
There are several versions of Finedene Sauce recipes at Food. com that incorporate coconut milk for a bit of a sweeter version or lemon juice you can interchange depending on what you are serving.  The soy and vinegar sauce is traditionally served with chicken and pork, the coconut sauce with seafood and poultry, and the lemon sauce with fish. Note on the yield: the coconut and lemon sauces each make 1 1/2 cups; the soy and vinegar makes 1 cup.

Here is my favorite version from Christina Magtoto, dip into it or pour it over EVERYTHING. Islanders NEVER do without it, and off-island visitors bring this fabulous Guamanian recipe back home.


1 cup lemon juice and rind
2/3 cup soy sauce
1 cup chopped onion
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
10-12 medium hot peppers, chopped or mashed according to your 'heat' preference

Cherry tomatoes - sliced
Cucumbers - sliced

Make this a few hours ahead or the night before. Mix all ingredients together and store the Finandene in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve!

Pour it over rice (a standard for ALL Guamanians and found at every party), over barbecued, grilled or fried chicken, steaks, ribs, fish, and vegetables. The sauce, because of its lemon base, gets tastier every day. Make sure to store unused sauce in the refrigerator and enjoy for weeks afterwards.

Guam's Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants hand out Finadene like ketchup!

Friday, April 12, 2013

County Bounty: Petals Both Tasty, Tantalizing

                                                                                                                                                             Many cultures have eaten flowers, with traditional uses still prevalent worldwide today, while new traditions are constantly springing up. Renee Shepherd of Renee's Garden Seed Company in Felton is an expert on edible flowers. She not only offers the seeds of many flower varieties for sale but includes several fantastic recipes in the cookbooks she's written. While in current society we've grown accustomed to identifying and celebrating these individual varieties, that may not have always been the case. "Edible flowers go back a long way in history," notes Shephard. "Centuries ago distinguishing the blossoms of herbs and other flowering plants wasn't so distinct. They were just all known as edible blossoms."

Shepherd has a few simple rules to follow for including edible flowers in your diet. "Only eat flowers that you grow from seed or know exactly where they came from. Standards for what you can spray on flowers are different than they are for food. It's also important that we do not assume something is edible just because it's on your plate in a restaurant. Always check with the staff."

Perhaps the most well-known of these so-called edible flowers are nasturtiums. Native to Central and South America, they come in a plethora of shapes and colors. In Renee's collection alone, there are 14 different varieties. Both the flowers and leaves are edible and ,according to Shepherd, nasturtiums "taste like watercress with a touch of honey. They're very nice paired with salmon or other fish."

Arugula Blossom
The flowers of many common kitchen herbs are also very much edible. Arugula, cilantro, thyme, rosemary and basil among others, all have flowers that are edible. "Just about any herb blossoms are nice," said Shepherd. "When we start to perceive flowering as just another productive stage of the plant rather than the end it extends the culinary life of the plant."

Zucchini Blossom
Another common edible flower is the squash blossom. The flower of any squash or pumpkin variety can be used, as well as summer squashes like zucchini, which are prolific.

Along with nasturtiums to a lesser extent, squash blossoms are one of the few flowers you might find available at local grocers or farmers markets. However, as is true with all of these, it's best to use them when they are freshly picked; they're at their best right out of the garden. Some common uses for squash blossoms are lightly battered and sauteed in olive oil or stuffed, as Shepherd suggests, "like a ravioli."

At Camp Joy Gardens in Boulder Creek, Towhee Nelson Huxley has seen an increased interest in edible flowers at the nonprofit's annual plant sale, which is coming up at the end of the month.
"I always love these flowers as part of the garden, and it would seem as if more restaurants are incorporating these little jewels in their food preparation."

Some of the varieties included in the mix at Camp Joy include borage, calendula, roses, rose hips, chive blossoms, comfrey, nasturtiums, johnny jump-ups, oregano and rosemary.  Uses of edible flowers are many and typically determined according to the level of sweetness present in the flower.

Sweet Lavender

Sweet lavender (not to be confused with Spanish lavender), which is highly fragrant on its own, can be steeped in milk to add sweetness or infused into sugar for baking. The same can be done with scented geraniums. Violets and violas, which have an almost minty flavor, are another desert flower that are often candied and used as an edible decoration in baked goods.

A few of the more unique uses include using calendula, popular at both Camp Joy and Renee's, as a color substitute for saffron. Borage, which has a cucumber-like flavor, can be frozen in ice cube trays filled with water and added to summer beverages. Anise hyssop, which according to Shepherd, "tastes like root beer," can be used as a tea or chopped up in stir fries, leaves and all.
Anise Hyssop

The Central Coast's lengthy growing season means there's still plenty of time to create an edible garden, as many of these varieties can be put in the ground right up until July. We not only have thousands of years of history to guide us in discovering these new flavors, but also plenty of local experts like Shepherd to point us in the right direction.

"I'm most interested in selling seeds or flowers that are enjoyable," she said.
In the case of edible flowers, that means on the table and on the plate.

Matt Landi is produce director for New Leaf Community Markets. Contact him at mattl@newleaf.com. His County Bounty column runs once a month.
The following recipes are great uses for edible flowers. The four recipes from Renee Shepherd of Renee's Garden Seed Company in Felton are from her cookbooks, 'Recipes from a Kitchen Garden,' and 'More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden,' both available at reneesgarden.com.

These rich but not too sweet shortbread cookies have just a hint of sweet lavender fragrance and flavor. They are perfect to serve with tea, milk or lemonade. I make several batches to divide up and tuck into pretty decorative boxes or tins I've lined with pastel tissue paper. Be prepared to share the recipe -- or, better yet, write it up on lavender-colored paper to include in the box. -- Renee Shepherd

Lavender Shortbread

Makes about 4 dozen
1 1/2 cups (3/4 pound) butter, at room temperature (no substitutes)
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons very finely chopped lavender florets (fresh or dried)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
2 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cover bottoms of two baking sheets with parchment or brown paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, lavender, and mint with an electric mixer. Mix until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour, cornstarch, and salt and beat until incorporated. Divide dough in half. Flatten into squares and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm.
2. On a floured board, roll or pat out each square to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut the dough into 1 1/2 -inch squares or rounds. Transfer to baking sheets, spacing cookies about 1 inch apart. Prick each cookie several times with a fork.
3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until pale golden (do not brown). Cool slightly, then transfer to a rack. Sprinkle with lavender powdered sugar.
4. Garnish with lavender powdered sugar: Put 4 or 5 sprigs of lavender flowers in a sealed jar with powdered sugar for a day before using the sugar.
Open-faced finger sandwiches that offer a handsome smorgasbord of colors and flavors. Decorate each sandwich with several savory edible flower petals and herb blossoms and serve. Expect to be applauded for your artistry! -- Renee Shepherd
Blossom Tea Sandwiches

One large cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped chives or scallions
Thinly sliced cracked wheat or white bread, crusts removed
Lots of edible blossoms: nasturtiums, chives, arugula, basil, borage, calendula, bush or pole snap bean flowers or herb blossoms, rinsed and patted dry

1. Squeeze chopped cucumber in a kitchen towel to remove as much moisture as possible; set aside.
2. Blend the cream cheese, seasonings and chives or scallions. Add cucumber
and combine well but do not overmix.
3. Spread on bread and cut into finger-sized open sandwiches.
4. Decorate the tops of the sandwiches with petals of various edible

A lovely, old-fashioned way to decorate cakes, custards, and puddings. -- Renee Shepherd
Candied Violas

1 cup fresh viola flowers, gently rinsed and patted dry
1 egg white, at room temperature
1/4 cup superfine sugar

1. Beat egg white until frothy. With a small, clean art or pastry brush, coat all sides of each flower's petals with beaten egg white gently and completely. Sprinkle flowers carefully and completely with sugar. Place on a cake rack over a baking sheet and let dry thoroughly in a cool dry place.
2. Store in a covered airtight container until ready to use.

A summer treat that shouldn't be missed. -- Renee Shepherd

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Blossoms12 to 15 fresh squash blossoms; number used will
vary depending on size, so have a few extra on hand.

FILLING1 pound ricotta cheese
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
1/2 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons melted butter
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix all the filling ingredients together except the melted butter. Stuff squash blossoms carefully; don't overfill.
3. Drizzle the melted butter over blossoms and bake for 15 minutes.
Chive blossoms give a delicate onion flavor to a simple omelet. It is perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light dinner.

Blue Flower Chive Omelet

Time: 5 minutes prep, 15 minutes cooking
Yield: 2 servings4 eggs

4 tablespoons milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced chives
3 tablespoons butter
About a dozen or so chive blossoms, gently washed and dried

1. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Combine eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and chives in a blender and pour into the hot, buttered pan. As the edges of the omelet begin to set, reduce the heat somewhat and with a spatula turn the uncooked eggs to the bottom of the skillet until they are all cooked.
2. Sprinkle the washed chive blossoms across the top of the eggs and then fold the omelet over and let cook another few minutes. Serve.
-- Recipe from homecooking.about.com

Corn Tortillas with Fresh Flower Petals

Time: 15 minutes prep, 30 minutes cooking
Yield: about 20 tortillas
1 pound masa flour
4 teaspoons salt
Cold water
Edible flowers, petals only (try confetti, nasturtium, pansy, roses or Johnny jump-ups)

1. Mix together flour and salt in medium mixing bowl. Slowly add water, as needed, and knead gently until a smooth dry masa is formed.
2. Remove small piece, roll into a ball (about half size of a golf ball). Continue to do so until all masa is used. Next, take a tortilla press and between 2 pieces of plastic, place a masa ball and press half way.
3. Now open, remove plastic from show side of tortilla, lay edible flower petals on half-pressed tortilla, recover with plastic, and finish pressing. Remove tortilla and place it between 2 pieces of wax paper.
4. Continue process until all masa is used. On a warm griddle remove 1 piece of wax paper and place raw tortilla on griddle. Cook on one side until golden brown, about 45 seconds, then turn over and cook for 1 more minute; serve.
-- Recipe from Chef John Sedlar, Abiquiu Restaurant, Santa Monica, via homecooking.about.com

Grilled Salmon with Nasturtium Vinaigrette

Time: 15 minutes prep, 10 minutes cooking
Yield: 4 servings

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup shallots, finely minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup chopped nasturtium flowers
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
8 (3 ounces each) boneless salmon fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
Chives for garnish

1. Preheat grill or broiler.

2. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, shallots, olive oil, and dill weed until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in nasturtium flowers and chives.
3. Rub salmon fillets with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill or broil salmon about 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness, but take care not to overcook.
4. For each serving, place 2 salmon fillets on each plate. Whisk the nasturtium vinaigrette briefly to re-combine, then spoon over salmon. Garnish with chopped chives.
-- Recipe from homecooking.about.com


Monday, March 4, 2013

My Favorite Serious Foodie Endorsements

I'm always on the look out for recipes that incorporate many of the vegetables we grow here at Two Crones Farm.  Now SeriousEats.com has delivered a nice selection to choose from with pictures that will entice you to incorporate more Meatless Monday's into your life.

Time for lunch!

Mind you, we're not strictly vegetarian around here but I do try to reduce the amount of meat that we eat on a regular basis.  We stock  pastured beef from True Grass Farm in our freezer, intentionally seeking out local, sustainable producers that we can support with our food dollars.    For poultry we  recommend Happy Hens Farm in Petaluma.  

There is also a great natural food store that we like for our organic bulk grains, nuts, and spices called Harvest House in Concord.  They carry raw milk and a large selection of gluten free items.  The book and supplement selection has a wide selection to choose from.  Flyers announcing classes by Myra Nissen, a local certified classical Homeopath and other health related experts are available.

On the occasions where I have to shop in a grocery market it's a whole day trip experience thing for me.  Berkeley Bowl is my top choice for East Bay day tripping.  The organic produce section alone is as large as most conventional neighborhood markets.  The selection of mushrooms is reason enough to visit.  The Grab-n-Go Café was one of my favorite stops after class at Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition.

 And no foodie I know has missed the opportunity to visit Rainbow Grocery in SF.  Thank goodness my first visit there was with friends that share my obsession with all things food related.  The art murals are really wonderful addition to the shopping experience. 

Anybody ready for a Foodie Road Trip? 
Next up......Farms of Solano County


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Little Bit of Whimsy

Just for fun!


Make a large batch of soup. Freeze the excess in muffin molds. When you want soup again, simply pop out a couple pucks and reheat. Also, the frozen puck is a great long-lasting snack for your dogs!

Getting to the ROOT of the Health & Wellness industry. 
4000 years of ancient remedies can't be wrong!
Cut spool in half, add dirt, a seed, a little water and LOVE

Yummy Snacks!!
Funky and Cool, a container garden for you!
We love to ReCycle !!
Living the Life of Tomato
So Adorable I just want to plant him in the garden!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Up To Our Elbows In Bee's Knees

Looking out my office window right now I have an amazing view.  The young fruit trees that we planted our first spring here at Two Crones Farm are showing just the hint of buds about to bloom.  The lush green field grass that whip at their trucks is waving in the early morning breeze.  Riki Kitty has joined me, unusual for her since she is one of the "Don't Touch Me" types.  I guess even she can't resist the view from her perch on my desk.

Borago Officinalis
Then there are the wild flowers, some seeded last season from a random packet I picked up at a garden show, some brought in on the wind and the wing.  The borage  is in full regalia, bright blue and tasty like fresh slices of cucumber.    I added borage as a companion planting for our strawberry bed last year and it has reseeded itself magnificently.  It is said to protect or nurse legumes, spinach, brassicas. It is also said to be a good companion plant to tomatoes because it confuses the search image of the mother moths of tomato hornworms or manduca looking for a place to lay their eggs.  While the large stand of borage has drawn our fair share of pollinators all winter long, we don't often stop to consider that this incredible display is all an attempt to attract bees and other pollinators. These displays don't just consist of things humans notice. There are also patterns in the ultraviolet spectrum, petal temperatures and textures and shapes.

Salvia leucantha
The Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha), planted last spring, has taken on a life of it's own of course.  It fully consumes 1/3 of a corner bed, besides being easy to care for, Mexican sage reaches full blossoming in the early fall and lasts until late fall. This is an advantage to gardeners seeking some color in flower beds when most other blooms have faded.  Another great addition to entice the bee's to visit.

I don't know the name of this pretty orange flower but it has popped up in several spots in the yard.  The stem is just tall enough to stay above the field grass, giving the blooms support and adding a bit of whimsy to the waves.  All in all, how our little flower garden grows is up to Mother Nature and wherever the blooms arise, the bees find them.  Here's to Bee's Knees and all the good fruit that their labors ensure!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Growing Awesome Tomatos - 10 Tips For Growing The Best in the West

It's that time of year when gardeners all around are longing for the ground to be warm enough to begin planting.    At our house the memories of the how much work it was to can or freeze the bounty have faded into the mist.  As we prepare the seed boxes we fantasize of the moment that we are able to pop that first sun warmed juicy tomato into our mouth.  Why is it that what we were so done with just a few short months ago has been romanticized into an quasi religious experience?
     As we pour over our garden plans, plotting where each little sprout will reside for the summer, the tomato is our centerpiece, our Garden Alter if you will.  All other equally delicious, nutritious, and beautiful vegetables pale in comparison to our fixation on where the tomatoes will be planted this year.
Here are 10 simple tips for your best tomatoes ever from one of my favorite garden magazines, Organic Gardening .
1. Choose a bright, airy spot.   Plant tomatoes where they will get at least 10 hours of light in summer. And leave room between plants for air to circulate.
2. Rotate even a little.  Alternate your tomato bed between even just two spots and you diminish the risk of soil borne diseases such as bacterial spot and early blight.
3. Pass up overgrown transplants.   When buying tomato seedlings, beware of lush green starts with poor root systems. They will languish for weeks before growing.
4. Bury the stems.   Plant your tomato seedlings up to the first true leaves. New roots will quickly sprout on the stems. More roots means more fruits.
5. Water deeply but infrequently.   Soak your tomato bed once a week, or every five days at the height of summer. Water directly on the soil, not on the leaves.
6. Pinch the suckers.   Prune off these non-fruiting branches. This directs the tomato plant's energy into growing bigger, better fruit.
7. Stake them high.   Use 6-foot stakes for indeterminate varieties like the 'Brandywine' tomato. Put in the stakes when transplanting to avoid damaging roots.
8. Add compost and trim.   While the first fruit is ripening, encourage new growth and continued fruit set by scratching compost around the stem, and trim some of the upper leaves.
9. Plant again.   Three weeks after you plant tomatoes in your garden, put in another set so all of your harvest doesn't come at once.
10. Pick ripe, but not dead ripe.   Heirloom tomatoes that are too ripe can be mealy. Harvest them when they're full size and fully colored.
For more information about growing tomatoes, check out Organic Gardening Tomato Growing Guide.
For Tomato, Peppers and other starts visit our friends Kelley & Arti's Plants in Concord. 
Backyard growers and sellers of tomato, pepper, herb and other edible seedlings. Supporting local, sustainable food sources, edible landscaping, and alternatives to industrial food.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January Planning Month

Gardeners know that this is the perfect time of year for planning.  It is when we get out notes detailing the garden's past productivity while pouring over seed catalogs that show opportunities for the next year.  It is important to do this reflection and planning now.  There is not much else going on in the garden that needs tending.  It's the time for the soil to rest and rejuvenate, while the planning gets the new garden off to a great start.

We've been doing a lot of reading on how to build the soil and keep the minerals in balance so that we grow nutrient dense plants.  After just two growing seasons on this land we realize that it will take a few more seasons to get the soil in tip top shape so patience is in permanent practice here!  It still surprises me that my nutrition education so closely parallels the lessons learned in the gardening research.  Who knew that the chemistry I so detested in high school would come so easily to my mind now.  I guess I needed the right motivation to link the science of it all to the physical outcome in my garden.

What I'm reading now: 
The Intelligent Gardener - Growing Nutrient Dense Food
by Steve Solomon with Erika Reinheimer (New Society Publishers, www.newsociety.com)
Starting with an overview of nutrient density, the history of organic agriculture and an accessible primer on basic soil chemistry, this comprehensive manual demonstrates how the home gardener can use the results of an inexpensive soil test to create their own individually tailored soil prescription.  The author systematically demystifies the replacement of a wealth of essential minerals while simultaneously debunking much of the false and misleading information perpetuated by both the conventional and organic agricultural movements.

Rich in historical information, this book is a compelling read for anyone at all interested in growing their own food.  It also has an extensive bibliography to utilize and reference charts to make the calculations easy to understand and implement.