Wishing You A Joyous New Year !
Photograph © 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden
December 31st, 2009 § 4
December 28th, 2009 § 1
It’s fiesta time in my kitchen. I am planning a holiday party with a menu of Mexican-inspired dishes. To set the mood for margarita sipping and chip dipping, I decided to create a celebratory cactus-bowl centerpiece. Making a dry, table-top garden filled with desert plants is a fun and inexpensive indoor gardening project, (total cost was less than $10). And the best part? This little planter will add a low-maintenance touch of life to a desktop or dresser long after the party is over…
To create my cactus bowl, I found a shallow container large enough to accommodate a few inexpensive cacti, (such as fairy castles and barrel cactus found for $1 – $2.50 at Home Depot). You can use any kind of planter; from terracotta to glass to tin – and beyond. The bowl pictured here does not contain a drainage hole. So, I filled the bottom with an inch of pea gravel and lined the sides with sand. In the center of the bowl, I added a layer of cactus potting soil, (a special mix created for good drainage, you can find it anywhere plants are sold), and then I positioned the plants, (I kept the plastic pots on for the designing part)…
Removing cacti from pots can be a painful process if you aren’t careful ! A good solution is to use a thick, smooth towel or a paper-collar to protect both your hands and the plant as you slip it from the plastic nursery-pot. Be sure to warn any young helpers and guests to your home – cactus look soft and tempting to little hands ! OUCH !
Once the plants are positioned, the spaces between cacti were filled with fast-draining potting soil, (a kitchen spoon is helpful with little projects like this). The top and edges of the planter were mulched with decorative sand and pea stone, (also found at Home Depot). To add an authentic desert touch, I added a few colorful stones from my rock collection, (gathered on various trips to the southwest)…
Add a few chile lights, some salsa on the playlist, hot tapas, chilled margaritas – and you have a party ! Isn’t it amazing what a few plants can do to change your mood !
Article and all photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.
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December 24th, 2009 § 3
Wishing you all things Merry and Bright !
Happy Holidays !
*Bright red cranberries and candles make a lovely, quick and natural centerpiece for the holiday table. To make one like mine, (I snapped the top photo last night while wrapping presents): fill a shallow glass bowl, (midway to the top), with water. Add fresh cranberries to cover the surface, and float a few candles here and there. The cranberries can be rinsed and re-used later, (you can also scatter them outside for hungry birds…). Please be sure to keep an eye on candles, and never leave them in an unattended room. Have a warm, safe holiday !
All photos copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden
All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express, written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
December 22nd, 2009 § 6
( Clearly, the gardener reads ! )
Beep, beep, beep, beep…
We now interrupt the usual, (somewhat quirky), blog posts to announce my new relationship with Garden Variety, the Barnes & Noble blog for bookish green-thumbs. Many thanks to Kristin for inviting me to write for Barnes and Noble on a weekly basis. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be a part of Barnes and Noble’s online community. My first article, “A Gardener Wrestles with Winter: Exploring the Four Season Harvest”, posted yesterday evening. Please head on over to Garden Variety and check it out. While you are there, be sure to explore the fantastic articles written by Becke Davis on this wonderful online book club for gardeners. Barnes and Noble’s website has a really nice selection of highly entertaining, informative blogs. I really enjoy B&N’s culinary blog, Food for Thought. In fact, just last week moderator Allison Fishman’s posted an article featuring one of my favorite cookbook authors, (and author/creator of the fantastic blog, The Pioneer Woman), Ree Drummond. This author visit on Food for Thought includes a question and answer section with Ree. Take a look – I know you will love it.
Thank you again to Kristin Z. and the entire Barnes and Noble community !
December 20th, 2009 § 10
My, oh my – where has the year gone? Here we are on the eve of the Winter Solstice, with 2010 right around the corner. I don’t know about you, but for me this year has been a complete whirl-wind. Looking back at the months gone by, I am truly grateful to have so many wonderful, familiar people in my life and so many beautiful new faces and memories. It’s been a tough year for many, with lost jobs and personal struggles, but there have been many joyful moments and happy occasions as well. This year has been a particularly special one for my family, as my delightfully sweet nephew Morgan arrived this past August. There is much to celebrate! I am also thankful to have all of you in my life. Your wonderful comments and lovely emails have brightened my life and propelled me forward. I thank you from the deepest part of my heart. And in this season of celebratory giving, I have a special little gift in mind to share with all of you…
I have to tell you that I have been barely able to contain myself for the past few weeks, eagerly anticipating the moment when I would share this special Winter Solstice cocktail. Yes I know, I am as silly as a little kid – it’s true. But this really is the perfect drink to celebrate the season. Why, why, why – You ask? Well, it’s because this champagne cocktail contains three seeds from the pomegranate, the mythical fruit of Greek legend, explaining the seasons. But before I get into the story, let me tell you the most exciting thing about this drink: when pomegranate seeds are dropped into a glass of champagne and pomegranate liqueur, they become suspended by bubbles rising in the sparkling wine. They float up and down; lifting, dipping and swaying, as if dancing to music. How festive is that? I love watching the ruby red seeds float around like lively party-goers in my champagne flute, and I know you are going to get a kick out of it too. Of course you know this drink deserves center stage at your next holiday party.
I had a champagne-pomegranate seed cocktail a long time ago, and when I saw it, I dubbed it The Persephone. I still can’t believe that I forgot all about it until I recently discovered a new spin on the recipe in Maria Hunt’s fantastic cocktail book, The Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion. Maria adds pomegranate liqueur instead of juice to the basic recipe and she calls this drink The Lava Lamp - (it’s fanatastic, as are all of her recipes, and it does bear a striking resemblance to that retro-fab design). But for the holidays, I prefer to go back to my old moniker, The Persephone, (I sure hope Maria won’t mind), and here’s why…
(*if you are as impatient as I am, you can scroll down to the recipe below and come back for the story later…)
According to Greek myth, Winter is explained by the grieving of Demeter, goddess of earth, fertility and the seasons. Many, many years ago, Demeter lived an idyllic life with her beautiful daughter Persephone, child of her union with the highest god, Zeus. Their days were spent tending to earth’s fertility, and their long, lovely evenings were passed enjoying the harvest and song. Then, one day Persephone went out into the fields to pick flowers with a group of nymphs. Suddenly, the earth cracked open, hissing and shaking them to the ground. Hades, god of the underworld, had been observing Persephone from the shadows, and in a moment of jealous desire, he reached out and dragged her beneath the soil into his kingdom of death – claiming her as his bride. Unaware that her child was abducted, (swept beneath the earth by Hades), Demeter desperately wandered the forests and fields for months. While searching for her beloved daughter, the goddess of fertility unintentionally allowed the earth go to waste. Finally Helios, the sun god, found the courage to tell Demeter that he saw her daughter taken – snatched by the dark king of the underworld.
With the crops going to ruin, and an earth trapped in endless winter, Zeus finally stepped in and demanded that Hades return Persephone to her mother. Hades agreed to return her, but with the stipulation that she must fast, along with the suffering earth, during her time in the underworld. Persephone dutifully abided by the rules, in spite of the great temptations placed before her by devious Hades. However, just before she is to be released, Persephone is tricked into eating a handful of pomegranate seeds by the crafty Hades. After starving for months in the underworld, the beautiful, plump fruit proved irresistible. Persephone let three pomegranate seeds pass her lips.
When our ill-fated heroine finally returned to her mother, there was a small catch. On the longest, darkest night of every year, The Winter Solstice, Persephone returns to her Hades in the underworld, where she remains for three months, (one for each seed), until she is allowed to return to her mother on the Vernal Equinox – Spring. Every year when Persephone departs, Demeter goes into mourning. The leaves begin to fall from the trees in late autumn as her melancholy mood returns. Then, when her daughter inevitably departs, the earth turns cold and dormant until Persephone returns again…
The Pomegranate, (Punica granatum), also known as the Chinese apple or the “many-grained apple”, is believed to have evolved in the Middle East, near modern Iran. Some believe that this, not the common apple, is the fabled fruit of The Garden of Eden. The pomegranate has been cultivated by mankind since the very beginning of recorded history. In the United States, pomegranates were introduced to California by Spanish settlers in the late 1700′s. Today the pomegranate tree is grown throughout the world in dry, warm climates similar to the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions where it was originally found. In the U.S. it is commonly raised in California, Arizona and other southwestern states.
If you have never tried this fruit, you don’t know what you are missing! Pomegranates are delicious, and they are used in many dishes and drinks in cultures throughout the world. The juice of the pomegranate is high in vitamins and anti-oxidant properties, and it can be enjoyed fresh or cooked to create delicious sauces. Seeds of the pomegranate, encased in waxy chambers of pith, can be eaten straight from the fruit, tossed in salads, or used in a wide variety of recipes…
From Maria Hunt’s Lava Lamp recipe found in : The Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion
Ingredients to make one Persephone/Lava Lamp cocktail
1 ounce of pomegranate liqueur or 3 tablespoons of pomegranate juice
3 pomegranate seeds (fewer for optimists or more if you are pessimistic)
5 ounces of brut champagne or dry, sparking wine*
A tall champagne flute
Follow instructions below…
To make this delicious and festive cocktail, begin by selecting a dark red pomegranate, (Punica granatum) from the market, (deep red, leathery skin is an indicator of ripeness). Tear open the leathery skin and remove the juicy red seeds from the pith. Opening the pomegranate may require a bit of effort. This is a fun-messy job, so get near a sink and towels – it helps to begin with a sharp knife. Once you get through the tough skin, simply rip the shell open.
Drop three seeds into the bottom of a tall champagne flute. Add 1 ounce of pomegranate liqueur or 3 tablespoons of pure pomegranate juice. Fill the glass with 5 ounces of dry, sparkling wine or brut champagne.
Enjoy watching as the pomegranate seeds rise and fall delightfully in the bubbles !
* Let youngsters, and those unable to drink alcoholic beverages, in on the fun by using non-alcoholic, sparkling white grape juice or any other bubbly substitute…
Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardner’s Eden. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
December 19th, 2009 § 16
Last week in ‘Terrariums Part One‘, I went over basic instructions demonstrating how terrariums are constructed, and introducing terrarium-newcomers to the beautiful, fascinating world of miniature conservatories. Starting with a simple terrarium, such as the native plant design I featured last week, is a good idea if you have never experimented with terrariums before, or if you are working with young children. However if you have already had some success with basic terrariums and houseplants, and you want to experiment with more unusual tropical plants or something a bit more challenging, you may be ready to move on to some less-typical interpretations of this indoor display method. Whether you go with a classic or a more modern design, keep in mind that a homemade terrarium is both an economical and memorable gift, and there is still plenty of time to come up with something truly special before Christmas…
Open bowl-style terrarium and a blown-glass bulb amid pink polka dot plant, (Hypoestes phyllostachya), purple velvet plant, (Gynura aurantiaca), and golden hair grass (Deschampsia flexuosa ‘Tatra gold’) All plants featured here are from: The Old School House Plantery
Begin by letting your imagination run wild. There are as many kinds of terrariums as there are people creating them. Terrariums may be open or closed, short and wide or tall and narrow. They may be made of solid glass, acrylic or plastic, or they can be combined with other materials, such as wood or steel. Some tiny greenhouses are smaller than lemons; others take up entire rooms. I have seen absolutely stunning, miniature conservatories made from recycled or even antique glass containers, and I have been amazed by more modern, architectural terrariums constructed from sheets of clear acrylic. Some designers like to add tiny collectibles, such as doll furniture or figurines to their designs. Other creative adornments might include itty-bitty flower pots, toy cars, prisms or glass balls. It is endless. The plants contained within terrariums also vary wildly. Naturally, your choices are limited by a wide variety of situational conditions and circumstances; including plant availability, budget, design, mature specimen size in relation to container, as well as ease of maintenance. There are also cultural requirements to consider; a few of which include humidity preferences, drainage and soil structure and chemistry.
Many plants will thrive within a moist, humid terrarium environment. In fact some, including many of my favorite orchids, actually perform better in my dry, winter home when contained within glass. The tiny moth orchid, (Phalaeonopsis), pictured at the top of this post, ($9 at Home Depot), is happily growing in a mixture of bark and sphagnum moss. Drainage is provided by a mix of pea stone and charcoal at the bottom of the container. Phalaeonopsis thrive in warm, moist conditions. Elevated humidity is provided by a tall, wide glass vase, (found at Target for $12), which holds water and reduces evaporation.
On the other hand many plants, including most alpines, cacti, succulents and herbs, tend to wither and rot in low light and dampness. But given the right container and growing conditions, some of these plants may be grown in glass planters as well. Of course, more exacting personalities might argue that wide-mouthed, glass pedestal bowls do not technically qualify as a terrariums. I encourage you to expand on these old-fashioned definitions, and to explore the concept of the modern terrarium. Although succulents are not good candidates for closed conservatories, they do make fantastic additions to open glass bowls – particularly the urn-shaped vessels intended for candy and fruit display….
A modern interpretation of the classic terrarium: non-traditional, dramatic succulents contained within a delicate glass pedestal bowl. All featured plants : The Old School House Plantery…
I created a lovely succulent bowl, similar to the one above, to give as a holiday gift this year. I liked it so much that I ended up making this one for myself. I selected a glass pedestal bowl intended for fruit display, ($9 at Target), and lined the bottom and sides with polished black stone, both for practical drainage and decorative drama. The center well was slowly filled with a good potting mix and plants. Designing a terrarium or glass planter is no different from any other garden design project. Color, texture, shape, structural density and form always come into play when designing with plants. I wanted to make this classic shaped bowl a bit modern. Many succulents have bold, geometric shapes, so they seemed like the perfect choice. I love the contrast of these thick-fleshed, colorful plants against the clear, delicate glass. For my vertical element I chose stately snake plant, (Sanseveria trifasiata ‘Laurentii’), and for the mounded, central feature, I chose one large and another small Mexian rose, (Echeveria ‘Pearl’). The trio of plants is softened by the trailing, delicate beauty of variegated elephant bush, (Portulacaria afra variegata). Perhaps stalwarts of terrarium design will brush this combination off as merely a conventional planting. But I think this modern terrarium-hybrid lies somewhere between, and defies hard-line definitions.
Of course, before you begin assembling your glass container plantings, there are a few things to keep in mind. Knowing something about your plant’s natural environment and cultural preference is the key to horticultural success under any circumstances. You can find this information by looking the plant up online or in an encyclopedia, (see library page for good reference books). If you provide a plant with what it wants and needs, odds are much better that it will reward you with lasting beauty and long life. But remember that half the fun of gardening, inside or out, is experimentation. This is an art as well as a science, so have fun and be creative. If your plantings start to look a bit lack-luster, you can always re-configure your arrangements and/or swap containers. I move plants around all the time!
I will be back with more terrarium resources, tips and ideas, as well as other indoor gardening projects soon. In the meantime, some great ideas for terrariums and indoor-plants may be found in Tova Martin’s fabulous new book The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature, and/or Diana Yakeley’s beautifully photographed title, Indoor Gardening. Together with a gift certificate from a local greenhouse, either of these books would make an unexpected, much appreciated gift for novice and expert gardeners alike.
All plants pictured are from : The Old School House Plantery
Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE
All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
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Find a Beautiful Terrarium, Container and/or Supplies at Viva Terra or Terrain…
December 17th, 2009 § 3
Winter’s Dawn at Ferncliff
The morning after a storm. Silent. Pristine. After months of drowsy, frost-covered mornings, at long last the garden has fallen to sleep. Lulled by a by a shifting blanket of snow, the flowers have all drifted away now; their pods empty; stalks broken. Summer’s song is hushed; notes frozen in chilly stillness. A long winter’s night lies ahead. Sleep tight Callicarpa. Stay warm beneath your mulch, toad lily. I’ve tucked you in with care – very tightly. Soon the forest will howl and snap, ushering in Winter’s sharp, bitter cold…
Russian cypress, (Microbiota decussata), lines the path to the north meadow…
Ilex verticillata, ‘Red sprite’ sparkles in the morning snow…
The native forest caught in a snow squall…
Shadows play upon the snow and bleached remains of fountain grass…
Snow coats rusty patterns – sharp, steel slats and curved lines…
Impossibly delicate, tiny snowflakes cling to tufts on ornamental grass…
The hardy perennials remain standing, swaying in the snow…
The entry garden plantings continue to add color and texture to the landscape, and in the background, eastern hemlock stands stately, newly cloaked in white…
Garden remnants in light and shadow…
Cotoneaster, still holding plump, ripe fruit, cascades down the retaining wall…
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ rests in a bed of snow…
Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. Please do not use my words or pictures without contacting me first. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardner’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
December 16th, 2009 § 5
The lovely and welcoming Red Bee Apiary in Weston, Connecticut
Marina Marchese: beekeeping farmer, author and founder of Red Bee Apiary Photograph by Jeff Becker
The subject of this weeks ‘Art Inspired by Nature’ on The Gardener’s Eden, is a lovely and talented woman living the life of many a discontented, city-dweller’s dreams. Not only is this beekeeper a successful boutique farmer and maker of artisan honey, she is also an accomplished author, illustrator and designer. And to top it all off, the founder and owner of Red Bee Apiary and Rossape, all-natural health and skin care products, began her amazing agricultural life when she stumbled upon her dream in a neighbor’s backyard. Meet Marina Marchese, the accidental beekeeper. So how exactly does one find the courage to up and quit the “rat-race”, becoming a beekeeper, boutique farmer and creator of artisan honey in the process? Well, the story of Red Bee and Marina’s delightful gourmet honey all begins with her visit to a small apiary and subsequent love affair with one of earth’s most precious creatures – the honeybee…
A honeybee on crocus at Red Bee Apiary
Nearly a decade ago, Marina was leading a hectic, urban professional’s life; working in the city and traveling between New York City and China. Then, one day in the spring of 2000, this busy and successful illustrator and designer visited a neighbor’s apiary and made an life-altering discovery. There amongst the hives, surrounded by gardens and bees, Marina found herself filled with a calm, comforting sense of peace. Allowing the honeybees to crawl freely upon her hands proved to be a transformative experience for Marina. Soon she was setting up her own hive, learning about beekeeping, artisanal honey and farm life. The story of Marina’s life-altering relationship with the honeybee is compelling, and a great inspiration to anyone longing to make the leap and follow a dream. I find this woman fascinating, and I am not alone in my admiration. In fact, just this year Marina published her first book, Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper, chronicling her fascinating life’s journey, (you may read reviews and excerpts, or buy Marina’s book by clicking on the links here and below)…
Marina Marchese’s book:
Over the past ten years, with hard work and devotion to the bees and her artisanal process, Marina has grown a great deal both personally and professionally. A second generation Italian-American, it seems only natural that Marina studied wine making as part of her educational process. Studying how wines are tasted and evaluated helped Marina to develop the exquisite, artisan honey she creates at Red Bee Apiary. Running a farm based business of any kind is a challenge, so it is particularly impressive to encounter Marina’s creative style, enthusiasm, drive and success. This beekeeper is a hands-on entrepreneur; involved in every detail of her business from garden to beehive to harvest. In addition, all of the Red Bee products are beautifully packaged with labels designed by Marina, (it looks like her education at The School of Visual Arts in NYC, and years of work as an illustrator and designer came in handy when creating her company’s signature style)…
The “accidental beekeeper” holding a bee frame…
Here, Marina demonstrates the uncapping of a frame from a bee hive…
Harvesting honey from uncapped frames in the spinner – and below the end result of this collaborative effort between Marina and her bees…
A market table filled with Marina’s artisan honey and Red Bee products…
Red Bee Apiary and Gardens is based out of Marina’s private residence in Weston, Connecticut. All of the beautiful, sustainable products featured here are handmade and sold under Marina’s Red Bee and Rossape trademark labels. Her delightful honey, health and skin care products and candles may all be purchased directly from her farm through the Red Bee Website linked here.
Pictured below are just a few of the delicious and lovely, handmade offerings from Red Bee. If you are looking for special, inexpensive homemade gifts this year, I encourage you to support Red Bee, and other small artisans and farmers. Thank you Marina, for sharing your story, and giving us both inspiration and a peek into your beautiful world.
Red Bee has developed an extensive selection of artisan honey to tantalize your taste-buds. Honey may be purchased in sampler gift-packs, in beautifully labeled bottles, or in its all-natural state – the honeycomb….
Red Bee honeycombs, or as Marina calls them, the “Jewel of the Beehive”, are very popular. This delicious treat is harvested and sold in its all-natural state. Try some with soft cheese and warm bread for a special holiday appetizer, or use it as natural sweetener on your morning toast.
Marina’s all-natural health and skin care products, sold under her Rossape label, are a natural way to pamper yourself or someone you love. Bee pollen and honey is well known for its health benefits. Pictured here are but a few of Marina’s beautiful and popular products. The Gardener’s Care Gift set really caught my eye. I am eager to sample this alluring collection…
Marina also creates beautiful beeswax candles. These candles are currently available in very limited in supply due to their seasonal popularity. If you like long, clean-burning candles, without cloying, artificial fragrance or smoke, then old-fashioned, beeswax candles are an excellent choice. Beeswax candles are naturally aromatic, long-lasting and drip-less. Marina’s Red Bee website has a lovely selection of styles to choose from, including classic tapers as well as more decorative honeycomb and molded creations. Here are a couple of my favorites…
All photography in this editorial feature, (with the noted exception of Marina’s portrait), is courtesy of and copyright Red Bee ® These images were used with the consent of Marina Marchese. Please contact her before using or reproducing any of these images. Thank you for your cooperation!
A poetic, pastoral scene at Red Bee Apiary and Gardens
For further informations about Marina Marchese and Red Bee ®, visit:
Alison Benjamin’s popular book: Keeping Bees And Making Honey
Bee Culture Magzine Online – A great resource for apiaries
Bee Culture editor Kim Flottum’s most recent book on beekeeping:
Apiary Richard Bonney’s well respected beekeeping book:
Article copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced for any purpose without express, written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
All articles and reviews on The Gardener’s Eden are purely editorial in nature. As a matter of personal integrity, no payment of any kind, (monetary or product gift), is ever received as compensation for mention here. However The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate, and any purchases you make at Amazon.com at their online store when visiting through the links here will help to support The Gardener’s Eden, (at no additional cost to you), by netting this site a small percentage of the sale. Thank you for your support !
December 14th, 2009 § 5
I am about to head out to do a bit of holiday shopping this evening, which unfortunately means that I will be confronted with relentlessly loud music and overbearing crowds. And you know, as much as I enjoy this season of giving, I sometimes find all the bright lights and chaos unnerving. Just thinking about this sensory overload and potential unpleasantness was giving me a bit of a headache, when all of a sudden I remembered the great CD set I received as a holiday gift last year. Oh what relief. I am taking this with me in the car! The sounds of bird song, frogs, thunderstorms, crickets, wolves and more, (recorded by various naturalists), were collected by Delta Music and packaged as a set of 5 CDs. I loaded them onto my computer, and into my ipod, and then I listened to them all winter when I was writing or painting. I am so glad I remembered those CDs – what a pleasure soft, natural sounds will be when I exit noisy Target !
I am most familiar with the “Echoes of Nature” series, which I have pictured and linked here. But there are several other collections, including “Sounds of the Earth”. My favorite from this company is the collection “Morning Birds” pictured and linked below. All of these recordings are without human voice or music – just pure natural sounds…
Thinking about the bird song and natural sound sets reminded me of an interesting gift I gave to my dad last year. My father loves birds and gardening. I was excited when I found The Backyard Birdsong Guide books, pictured below, to help him learn to identify various birds by song as well as by visual cues. These books are very easy and fun to use. You simply dial in the corresponding number to the species on the page, and push a button to listen. My father loves these books, (he liked them so much that I picked up the bird-song calendar for him later).
Almost all gardeners are bird lovers, so these books and CDs make great holiday gifts. I should also mention that these audio field guide books are produced by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, so they are also fantastic teaching tools for nature lovers and gardeners of all ages. One of the keys to preserving and protecting nature is learning about it; something I feel very strongly about. But beyond the educational and relaxation value, I have to be honest – these books are also a good time. I won’t go into all of the kooky things I do with mine, (OK, so they involve the cat), but let’s just say they are an awful lot of fun over the long, long, winter…
These other non-bird centered CDs feature the sounds of the forest, (“American Wilds” has rain showers, frogs, crickets, wolves, cicadas and ambient forest sounds), frogs and thunderstorms. I noticed when I looked my titles up online, that many others get great reviews as well – but I have only heard the ones listed here. If you are curious, you can sample the sounds online through the links, and if you enjoy them, you can always download a few for yourself as a mid-winter pick-me-up when things get really cold and silent outside…
All content on this site, (exclusive of notation), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
As a matter of personal integrity, all product and book reviews on this site are purely editorial. No payment of any kind is received for mention here. However, The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate, and any purchases you make at Amazon by accessing the store through the links on this site will help to support The Gardener’s Eden, at no cost to you, by netting a small percentage of the sale. Thank you for your support!
December 13th, 2009 § 4
Spiced Yogurt Cake with Bartlett Pears
Bartlett Pears on a Turquoise Plate
I love getting up early on a winter morning and baking in a sunlit kitchen. To me, the scent of fresh baked goods, coffee and fragrant, warm spices makes a house feel comforting and homey. So this morning, when my cat nudged me awake before the sunrise, I started a fire in the wood stove and began throwing open the cupboards and canisters.
Fruit from the fall harvest is still plentiful at my local orchards and markets, and as you may have noticed, I have been enjoying it ! Although I have been writing a great deal about heirloom apples lately, in truth I have a great weakness for all fall fruit – and I am particularly fond of pears. Simply gazing upon their blushing, golden beauty as they bask in the early morning light on my table, I find them absolutely irresistible. Sometimes I will buy a few pears, intending to poach or bake with them, and then I will eat them all before the weekend. The flesh of this sweetly perfumed fruit has such a beautiful, delicate texture, usually I can not control myself. But this time I bought a dozen Bartlett pears at the market, enough for baking as well as for impulse-pleasure.
Last week I mentioned my fondness for Marion Cunningham’s delightful Breakfast Book. Marion’s collection of recipes includes many delicious coffee and breakfast cakes. Also last week, while visiting one of my favorite cooking blogs, Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate and Zucchini, I found a slightly different twist on a much loved, basic coffee cake from Marion’s book. Gateau au Yaourt is a simple and easily modified French cake recipe. Clotilde posted a variation on this yogurt cake with apples and maple sugar, (in honor of her nephew’s first birthday – we are both new aunts, and I was excited to read that she takes this as seriously as I do!). I tried this cake and I absolutely loved it. So, this morning I decided to combine Clotilde and Marion’s recipes together, adding fresh Bartlett pears atop the cake, and the result is quite delightful, (I am enjoying a slice with coffee as I write to share this with you). I think the subtle, exquisite flavor of Bartlett pears works perfectly with this recipe – it’s a simple, easy-to-make treat for this wintery, holiday season.
I am so enamored of Clotilde’s cookbooks that I have ordered several copies to give as holiday gifts this year. Her blog is fantastic, and I was hoping to attend her book signing in New York in order to meet her, but we were hit with a severe snow storm and I was unable to drive to the city. Sigh. Next time! Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris is her latest collection of wonderful recipes. Her instructions are always easy to follow and her style of writing is both clear and entertaining. I could go on and on, but I am sorry, I need to finish eating my slice of cake !
(with the French influence of Clotilde Dusoulier and American Marion Cunningham)
1 cup whole milk yogurt (or use sour cream, as Marion does)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted (or use vegetable oil, as Clotilde does)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon light rum (I used Puerto Rican golden rum)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 ripe Bartlett pears, cored and sliced in thin wedges
dash fresh ground nutmeg
dash fresh ground cinnamon
butter for greasing pan
Warm oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and set aside. Core and thinly slice three ripe Bartlett pears to wedges. Set aside. Grease a 10″ round, ceramic pan or cake dish with butter. Mix yogurt, eggs, vanilla, rum, sugar and melted butter in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet and blend until just mixed. Pour mix into the greased pan. Arrange sliced pears in a circle atop the cake and sprinkle with fresh ground nutmeg and cinnamon.
Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and test with a stick for doneness. Let the cake sit for 15 minutes before removing from the pan or serving.
When mixing the ingredients, remember that a few lumps are OK – best not to overwork the batter…
I sliced Bartlett pears into thin wedges and arranged them in a spiral atop the cake. A dusting of fresh ground nutmeg and cinnamon topped things off before I set it into the hot oven…
Bartlett pears look so beautiful on my table, it is almost like having Cezanne to breakfast.
Two favorite cook books from Clotilde …
Click here for: Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris
Article and photographs, (with exception of the two book links above), copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
As a matter of personal integrity, all product and book reviews on this site are purely editorial. No payment of any kind is received for mention here. However, The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate, and any purchases you make at Amazon by accessing the store through links on this site will help support The Gardener’s Eden by netting this site a small percentage of the sale. Thank you !
December 11th, 2009 § 12
I am very fortunate to live and work surrounded by gardens. Even in winter, nature is part of my everyday life. But not everyone is so lucky. Some of us have friends and family members working in city high rises, crowded into sterile offices or lifeless cubicles. As gardeners, I’d like to think that we can alter this situation, especially around the holidays, by bringing a little bit of nature into these people’s lives. A few years back a friend of mine gave a magical, mist-covered terrarium as a birthday gift to a mutual acquaintance. This gorgeous garden-behind-glass, filled with ferns and moss, inspired me to create one for a nature-lover I know; one sadly trapped inside a concrete jungle.
I have loved building mini-greenhouses ever since grade school, when they were a big fad with my friends. Although terrariums disappeared for awhile, I am happy to report that this indoor gardening trend has returned – and with a vengeance ! Terrariums are all the rage right now. The popular craft and decorating blog Design * Sponge has been running spots on glass covered terrarium ornaments and even haunted ‘terror-ariums’ for months, and suddenly it seems that tiny greenhouses are turning up everywhere from trendy restaurants and hotel lobbies to libraries and classrooms. With the surge in terrarium popularity, you might think that keeping plants beneath glass is a new idea. But small-scale, glass covered gardens have gone in and out of fashion for centuries. The Victorians were particularly elaborate, designing exquisite table-top greenhouses and free-standing conservatories in miniature, (usually fashioned from plate glass and forged iron). These days, we are seeing everything from itty-bitty, hanging glass-globe-gardens to enormous, sculptural terrariums; masterful works of art and horticultural science.
Creating a basic terrarium is very simple, and it’s a fun project for kids and adults alike. All you need to begin is a glass jar with a lid, a bag of pea gravel, sphagnum moss, potting soil, a spray-bottle filled with water, and a selection of rocks, bark, sticks and plants. Holiday conservatories, filled with birch bark, native moss, ferns and partridge berry look particularly lovely centered on a dining table or grouped together on a mantel. Terrarium design is limited only by your own imagination! For inspiration, I love Tovah Martin’s book, The New Terrarium, pictured below…
To build a simple terrarium like the one I made, (pictured at the top of this article), begin by locating a clear glass container with a lid. The smaller one pictured here is an Anchor Hocking 3 quart, glass kitchen canister. You can find these at most department and craft store, or order them through the various links below. If you are planting your first terrarium, or if you are working with school-aged children, I recommend starting with simple containers or jars. If you are making a holiday gift, or feeling more adventurous, then by all means get more creative with antique apothecary jars, glass cake domes, or specialty terrarium containers.
Now, just follow the simple steps below…
Step one: Purchase pea gravel or aquarium stone, sphagnum moss, (for native plants I also recommend peat moss), and good, dry potting soil, (you can get all of these things at a local home store like Home Depot). Collect decorative materials such as stones, bark, twigs, and pine cones from nature or purchase these types of items from a craft store. Select and buy small plants from a local greenhouse/florist or through online resources. Cover the table top with newspaper before you begin – this is a messy project !
Step two: Fill the bottom of the glass container with about an inch of pea stone gravel. This is important for drainage, but you really only need a bit to cover the bottom. You can get more creative, as you gain experience…
Step Three: Add a layer of sphagnum moss, (sometimes called sheet moss), to hold in the soil and retain moisture. This is optional, but I find it helps the terrarium remain neat. You can also add horticultural charcoal to keep the jar fresh, but it isn’t necessary, (I skipped this for my holiday terrariums)…
Step Four: Add potting soil,(and peat moss if you are planting acid-loving natives like ferns and moss). Make a mound so that the plants in the center will be visible from all sides…
Step Five: Add bark bits here and there, and wet down the contents of the jar thoroughly with a water-filled spray mister, like the one shown above. Let the contents settle for a few minutes and then add your plants. For my native terrarium, I added club moss,(Lycopodium), partridge berry, (Mitchella), and a forest moss called Dicranella. I also scattered tiny pine cones and birch bark in the jar to make the woodsy scene more realistic. Mist your terrarium thoroughly after planting and cover with the glass lid. Check your plants over the next few days and water with your mister if they seem dry.
You are finished ! Terrariums need very little maintenance. They are the perfect project for new indoor-gardeners. All you need to do is check on them once a month or so, and add water if necessary. Once terrariums are established, they can go months without any attention at all. Humidity and condensation inside the jar will generally keep things alive and well.
Below I have pasted some jar photos to give you some container ideas. But if you have the time, let your creative mind be your guide. Once you begin, you may find yourself catching terrarium-mania. I know I have. In fact, I am headed to my local greenhouse tomorrow for some tropical inspiration. Next week I will share what I find for my larger table-top terrarium. You can go wild with all kinds of plants from African violets and orchids to exotic ferns and moss. I will be back with more terrarium plants, containers and ideas soon…
Container ideas and links…
This one from Anchor Hocking at Amazon has a more open lip, and the price is a bit lower, ($24.99, free shipping). A Low ceiling like this means you will be limited to tiny plants, such as moss and miniature ferns…
Apothecary jars make lovely terrariums. They are available in many sizes. You can seek them out in antique shops or buy them new. I found these sets from Anchor Hocking company at Amazon.com. I also spotted lots of cool, inexpensive jars at Target and the local grocery store.
Small sized set of six $23.94 with free shipping…
Or larger sized set of four $27.96 with free shipping…
A 3-Quart clear jar will make a nice sized terrarium. The top lid makes for easy maintenance…
There is a huge selection of glass jars with lids available at Amazon.com, linked here.
Find more sophisticated and advanced terrarium ideas on the Indoor Eden page at left. Or, visit retailers linked below – all known for fine garden products and terrariums…
Article and Photographs (excepting product links) ⓒ Michaela at TGE
All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!
December 9th, 2009 § 3
“We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning. The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the snug cheer within. The stillness of the morning is impressive. The floor creaks under our feet as we move toward the window to look abroad through some clear space over the fields. We see the roofs stand under their snow burden. From the eaves and fences hang stalactites of snow, and in the yard stand stalagmites covering some concealed core. The trees and shrubs rear white arms to the sky on every side; and where were walls and fences, we see fantastic forms stretching in frolic gambols across the dusky landscape, as if nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by night as models for man’s art…”……………………………….. Henry David Thoreau, (excerpt) “A Winter Walk”
***For further information about the artwork of M.S. Harlow, please visit the artist’s website here.
All images on this post are copyright M.S. Harlow, all rights reserved.
All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
December 8th, 2009 § 3
We gardeners have a reputation as ‘hard-to-shop for’ people, especially when it comes to holiday gifts. This may be true, as we often are a bit particular about our likes and dislikes. Sometimes when a non-gardener is shopping for us, the choices can seem overwhelming. By-pass pruner or anvil? Garden gnome or gargoyle? Glass cloche or terrarium? Mini-tiller or a rental back-hoe? It can be a tough call. Trying to guess our preferences can be a daunting task. A gift certificate is always a safe choice, but it doesn’t seem quite as fun, does it? Well, maybe I can be of help. Over the next couple of weeks, I will post some ideas, in a wide price range.
If you are shopping for a gardener, and you have a chance to snoop about in their mud-room or garage, look for the items below. If you don’t see any of these things hanging around, chances are very good that these picks will be most appreciated by the gardener come spring. A hand forged trowel or top quality pair of pruners is a gift almost guaranteed to bring a smile to a gardener’s face. And if you are feeling particularly generous this year, I would recommend an excellent quality pair of boots from Wellington or the Muck Boot company. A good pair of gardening boots can make even a simple trip to the compost heap seem special, and they will make a raw, rainy day much more productive and enjoyable.
Of course if you are reading this, then chances are you are a gardener yourself. Well, if you see something, or a few things that you like, well, you could just drop a hint by mentioning this blog post, and how much you have this-or-that in mind for next spring. Or you could be more obvious and just send a link to your lost little elf in order to help them along. Hey, you never know.
I will be back soon with more gift ideas for the coming holiday season, maybe something here will get your creative engine humming…
Gorgeous Premium Wellington Boots Red
Gorgeous Premium Wellington Boots Green
Or Practical All Terrain MuckBoots Adult Chore Hi-Cut Boot,Black,Men’s 8 M/Women’s 9 M
The go-anywhere, hand-saver - The Mud Glove 737a24
The product links provided below the items pictured here will lead to Amazon.com. As a matter of personal integrity, I review all products and books from a strictly unbiased view-point, (I do not receive payment or product for review – of any kind). However The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate, and this site will receive a small percentage of any sale originating from the Amazon links here. With your help, these commissions will help to pay for this site’s maintenance. Thank you for your support !
Article copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden
All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
December 7th, 2009 § 4
Late this fall, I was helping my client and friend Leah design and install a perennial garden at her home, (if you read this blog regularly you will recall that Leah loaned me a copy of The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan, turning me on to the author’s book). Leah has a beautiful son named Sam and she is also expecting another child very soon – any day in fact. My own sister brought a little boy named Morgan into the world this past August. You may have read a post I wrote about him earlier during the fall bulb planting season, “I Believe in the Promise of Tomorrow“. Morgan was a newborn when I began working with Leah, and as result she and I spent quite a bit of time talking about children and gardening. Leah is quite keen on creating a space that is both attractive and child-friendly for her youngsters, (little Sam displayed quite an interest in helping his mom dig while I was visiting!). I delighted in everything about Leah’s philosophy, from her interest in native plants and wildlife, to her unabashed love of botanical beauty. Often my clients become friends, and they almost always give me as much as I give them. This is very much the case with Leah.
A few weeks after we finished planting the last of her perennials, a package arrived in my mailbox. When I opened it, I was surprised at the beautiful book that slipped into my hands. Leah sent a copy of Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius as a gift for my nephew Morgan, but the book immediately captured my own interest and touched me very deeply. Is it possible that the young Miss Rumphius bears more than a passing resemblance to yours truly? It could be. Perhaps that is why I found the book so moving. But more apropos to this blog, the story touches upon all of our deep-rooted need for connection to the natural world and our universal desire for beauty. Although the book is recommended for children aged 3 – 8, I clearly enjoyed it myself !
Leah and Barbara Cooney’s fictional character, Miss Rumphius, got me thinking about the importance of inspirational and educational gardening books for children. After all, many of us develop our life-long interests at a young age. If this generation of parents, (or grandparents or friends or relatives), wishes to nurture a love of nature and gardening in the next generation, there is no better way to begin than with great stories and hands-on educational books. I hope you will consider a garden-inspired gift for the children in your life this holiday season. Together with a packet or two of seed, (and perhaps a terrarium or even a worm farm for older children), these books can truly become gifts that keep on giving. Gardening often becomes not only a skill, but a passion that lasts a lifetime.
So as we move into the gift-giving season, I thought I should pass along some personal recommendations for the youngest gardeners in your life. I am quite familiar with all of these titles – in fact some are dog-eared favorites from my own childhood. These books are a delight to read as well as to behold, both for children and the adults guiding them…
One of my favorite stories, Ruth Krauss‘s poetic book The Carrot Seed Board Book is a children’s classic written more than 60 years ago. The simple lessons of gardening and life contained within these pages are as timeless and beautiful today as they were when this book was written, so many years ago. I have ordered a copy to give to my 4 month old nephew, Morgan. This book is appropriate for reading to babies and toddlers, and as a beginning book for children learning to read…
I have also, always loved Eric Carle’s books. When I was a kid, I was fortunate enough to go to school with a little girl whose family actually knew this celebrated author. This lucky girl’s parents had Mr. Carle come to their house for her birthday one year, to draw pictures and read from his books. I am so glad I was invited to the party, for I will never forget the experience of watching this artist work his storytelling magic with a group of my seven-year-old friends. Now there are people who dislike Eric Carle’s books, (what could they be thinking?). Some critics insist that Carle takes liberties with scientific facts, and claim that he can sometimes be ‘dark’. Well – bah. As and artist and a gardener, I happen to adore Mr. Carle’s books, and I don’t care a whit about his botanical or entomological inaccuracies. We read Eric Carle for creative inspiration, not for scientific study; and for the imaginative child, his books are a delight beyond description. If you are looking for science, scroll to the titles below. And if you think your young child might be scared when reading about gobbled-up seeds, then wait a few years. But, I can not imagine sheltering a child from Eric Carle’s delightful stories forever, (disclaimer: I grew up reading and loving Edward Gorey – now that is dark). The Tiny Seed (World of Eric Carle) is a wonderful book about nature, as are many of Carle’s other titles, including my all time favorites, The Very Hungry Caterpillar: board book & CD, and The Very Busy Spider. They are all appropriate for kids 5 – 8…
Sharon Lovejoy is another inspirational and popular author of gardening books for children and adults. Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children, is my favorite. This wonderful hands-on book is great fun for children and grown-ups alike. A perfect gift for a slightly older child, (aged 4-8), combining this title with a few packets of seed and perhaps some indoor seed-starting trays, would make a great introductory gardening kit for any child in elementary school…
Of course a children’s garden book written and illustrated by a science teacher is bound to be a fabulous teaching tool, but in the case of Jack’s Garden, author Henry Cole manages to do far more than educate – his book is truly magical inspiration. From the gorgeous drawings to the delightfully well-chosen words, this book will quickly enchant both children and adults. Henry has a rare gift, and if you would like to spark horticultural interest an elementary school children aged 4 – 8, this is a book is a great choice…
Gardening Wizardry for Kids by Patricia Kite is another excellent activity book, especially for restless kids looking for something to do with their hands over the winter months. Kite teaches children many indoor gardening skills through hands-on projects. Geared toward slightly older kids, (grades 4 – 6), it includes fun windowsill and kitchen experiments, including a few squiggly, wormy ones…
The last book on my list for today is the work of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, (see link in side bar at right under public gardens). The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is home to the oldest public garden for children in the United States, and this wonderful place is worth a visiting if you are anywhere in the Northeast. Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Gardening with Children (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide) is an excellent guide for young families learning how to garden. Even more experienced green thumbs will enjoy the beautiful illustrations in this book, while learning more about how to introduce botanical concepts to curious kids. I highly recommend this title as a gift for families with young children, especially if they are looking to explore gardening and science.
Enjoy your seasonal shopping, and Happy Holidays !
All of these titles should be easy to find at a local book store, or through the links provided to Amazon.com. As a matter of personal integrity, I review all books and products from an strictly unbiased view-point, (I do not receive payment or product for review, of any kind). However, The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate, and this site will receive a small percentage of any purchases you choose to make through the Amazon.com links here. With your help, these commission will help to pay for this site’s maintenance. Thank you for your support!
This article is copyright 2009, Michaela at the Gardener’s Eden. All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…
December 5th, 2009 § 2
So what am I doing outside these days? Oh all sorts of last minute, before-the-snow-flies chores and holiday decorating. Up until today, it has been unseasonably warm in New England, and I have been delighting in the temperatures while gathering greenery and stringing lights. But this morning, the air is a bit nippy, and I still need to wrap and protect some ornamental trees, (more on that later), in my garden.
After only an hour outside today, my fingers were already getting cold. I know I will get cranky this afternoon if I don’t make something warm to fill me up later. The wintry clouds are moving in now, promising at least a few inches of snow. I can hardly contain my excitement ! Just imagine how beautiful everything will look in the morning. I sure hope the forecast is accurate, don’t you? Things are looking a bit drab outside these days. A blanket of white will really bring out the red twigs and colorful berries in my garden, and I think the conifers look particularly magical all cloaked in fluffy snow.
Speaking of color, I am a push-over for bright orange soup on a grey day. This recipe for fragrant, creamy-textured butternut squash soup delivers exactly the warm temperature and hue I am craving. I love Annie Somerville’s Fields of Greens: New Vegetarian Recipes From The Celebrated Greens Restaurantcookbook for many reasons, but this soup recipe is really at the top of the list. I messed with the ingredients just a bit, since I do not have Calvados on hand. But I have found that Zeke’s heirloom apple cider, (from local Scott Farm), is a delightful flavor substitute when combined with a bit of French brandy.
So if you are working outside this weekend, or just feeling a bit blah, give this sunny soup a try. The bright orange-gold color in my charcoal colored bowl feels just like a ray of sunlight streaming through dark clouds…
Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Confit and a Kiss of Creme Fraiche
Adapted from Annie Somerville’s, Fields of Greens New Vegetarian Recipes
3 cups of Light Vegetable Stock (homemade is best)
1 Tbs light olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
3 Tbs Calvados , ( I substituted French Brandy and 1 Tbs apple cider, listed below )
4 lbs Butternut Squash, (1 good sized squash or 6 cups), peeled and cut into cubes
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 average sized, flavorful, sweet-tart apples, ( 2 1/2 cups peeled, cored and sliced)
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs apple cider (or apple juice)
1/2 cup Creme Fraiche
Freshly ground white pepper
Warm the vegetable stock in a pot over low heat. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbs of olive oil in a medium sized soup pot. Add the sliced onion, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bit of pepper. With the burner on medium, saute the onions, stirring regularly, for about 15 minutes, or until slightly caramelized. Add a bit of stock and scrape the onions from the bottom of the pan. Add 2 Tbs. of brandy and 1 Tbs apple cider, and cook over medium high heat until the pan is nearly dry.
Add the squash and 1 tsp of salt to the pan. Pour about 2 cups of vegetable stock, perhaps slightly more, into the pot until the squash is just covered. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is soft. Pour the soup into a blender or food processor, add a bit more stock to liquify, and puree to a thick but soupy consistency. Add more stock as needed. Pour the soup back into the pot and simmer for a half an hour over low heat.
To make the apple confit: Melt 1 Tbs. butter in a saute pan, (with a lid). When the butter is melted, add apples and saute, medium-high, stirring to coat the apples in butter. Add 1 Tbs. Calvados or Brandy and cook down for about 2 minutes, or until the pan is nearly dry. Add the apple cider and cover, cooking the apples over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until soft. Uncover and cook another 5-10 minutes, reducing the liquid. Mash the apples lightly.
Divide the confit in half. Stir one half into the soup and set the rest aside to spoon atop each serving bowl. Add a dollop of creme fraiche and float a bit of apple confit atop each warmed bowl of soup before serving. Swirl for a pretty effect.
Article and photos ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden
All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent.
Do you enjoy reading The Gardener’ Eden? You can help support this blog by shopping with our affiliates. A small percentage of any sale originating on this site will be paid back to The Gardener’s Eden. Thank you!