Humulus Lupulus, Anyone?

image courtesy of Missouri Botanical Gardens' Rare Book Collection:

Back in March I dug up and divided some hops rhizomes as our sprouting vines were already showing signs of vigor that I am not sure the arbor which they are established along was completely designed to manage. Dividing hops rhizomes is quite easy and enjoyable: dig down to where the rhizomes are trailing, evidenced by their first emerging sprouts (which the British used to harvest and eat, like we do asparagus). I aim for clipping those furthest away from the crown first, and use caution digging around the crown itself. With a pair of sharp hand shears trim 3-4" pieces of rhizome that each have 2+ sprouts emerging from it.

I potted the rhizomes I'd harvested into 1 gallon containers, watered and waited until they started to leaf out and establish roots. Then, with some courage and hope, I reached out to the good folks at Fermentation Solutions, our favorite local fermentation supply store. I asked if they wouldn't mind keeping a few one gallon pots of this medicinal, fragrant vine around their shop -- just to see if fellow home-brewers in the South Bay Area might be interested... 

And, as it turns out, some home-brewers were!

I brought an additional half dozen plants to the shop last week: a mix of Cascade, Sterling, and Willamette vines. 

If you are local and have an interest in adding an easily grown, perennial vine or two to your garden or yard, preferably alongside a fence as they will need support sooner than later, I encourage you to swing by Fermentation Solutions, on Winchester Blvd., in Campbell. These plants would love a new home and can become a beautiful & fragrant living shade structure which, based on our warm Spring weather thus far, I think we will need come Summertime.  

Asparagus, Escarole, Interns, Rain!

Bloomsdale spinach, large heads of escarole, asparagus, garlic chives, spring beets, artichokes and broccoli flowers: gifts of nourishment and pleasure in this week's harvest.  

Spring interns have arrived and are eager to learn, work, and collaborate: we are so grateful. And the sky opened up, gifting the gardens with a little more than a .5 inch of much, much needed rain on Thursday. 


Spring Forms, Food and Flowers

Red camellia shrubs frame a table-top pruned crabapple tree. Their blooms are coordinated to create a magnificent Spring show of reds, pinks and whites all at once. 

Red camellia shrubs frame a table-top pruned crabapple tree. Their blooms are coordinated to create a magnificent Spring show of reds, pinks and whites all at once. 

With Spring "officially" here, and notes in our journals pointing to signs of the season having been upon us, in fits and bursts, as early as six weeks ago now, it seems to be an appropriate time to take inventory of our harvests, and the state of the gardens, in general.

Despite the miner's lettuce flowering, it is still wonderfully succulent and refreshing.

Meyer lemons, blood and navel oranges, and miner's lettuce have been mainstay edibles at Delphi through the winter and early spring. Lettuce, arugula, escarole, and mustard greens planted last December, and earlier, have now either been harvested or, depending when they were transplanted last season, are beginning to grow rapidly with the lengthening days and temperatures that reach the low 70's, at times. Night-time temps are still cool, in the 40's. Peas, collards, cabbage, dill and cilantro have been transplanted and all seem the better for it. Asparagus spears are beginning to emerge in the perennial beds and a few small artichokes have peeked around their silvery blankets of leaves. I've lightly harvested manzanita and borage flowers to add color to our winter salads. Their subtle, floral tastes provide a spring energy that is beyond generous, including in small amounts.

The over-wintered kale and swiss chard plants want to live-on forever in our Santa Cruz mountain area but we are clearing them as we move forward with some double-digging and bed amendment work. The Lacinato and Red Russian kale leaves are sweeter thanks to having over-wintered but the swiss chard appears tough and less desirable to me, the longer it stays in the ground. The chickens appreciate the chard, and any aphids that are on it, very much! There are two incredible broccoli plants, referred to at Delphi as the "perennial broccolis," which formed gorgeous, tight, purple heads a week or so ago. We've been harvesting from both heads, never removing the whole head at once but enjoying it in pieces over the course of different meals. Broccoli is typically a biennial crop in this area, so I wonder if the method of harvest contributes to why it has grown so vigorously for more than two seasons now...  

While the narcissus, of which there are easily a half dozen different kinds scattered throughout the estate, are either still in full bloom or have just finished blooming, I've failed to take any photos of them because they are, literally, everywhere! They provide superb, natural protection from the gophers, rabbits and deer - who all detest their bulbs. I will end my Spring journal entry, instead, with two stunning flowers that I've been most attracted to recently:  

Fremontadendron, native to California, Arizona and Baja Mexico, is also called Flannel Bush because of its fuzzy leaves and conical seed capsules. Beware, though: the seed capsules and leaf undersides can irritate the skin if handled.  

I've not been able to identify these blushing, papery, short-lived beauties. I snapped a photo of them on my way to making several trips to the mulch pile, just off of the path, in the woods. When I went back a few days later for a closer look, they were gone! If you know what these are called please post a response in the comments. Thank you!