Archive for March 2010


March 28, 2010

The sky is behaving like it’s spring—last night it was holding light as late as 8:00. But a glance at the ground tells the cold hard fact. It snowed on Thursday and though the sun has been shining brightly, it’s no match for the still-chilly air, and patches of the white stuff are stubbornly hanging around. 

Still, there are a few signs of life. The apples are budding. Busy bunnies have been doing their best to clean up the last of the Brussels sprout stalks, leaving behind neat pellets of organic fertilizer. (I’m glad for their contribution but a little worried they’ll continue the habit of taking their meals here in the high season.) The rhubarb is beginning to surface.

The newborn baby howls, sorrowful and indignant to be pushed out of the womb and made to weather the world. But what about the first tender plants that crack the frozen earth to reach toward the light in these early unspringlike days? When I inspected the area where I planted last season’s mesclun, I noticed a strong reddish leaf re-emerging after a winter slumber. I remember that leaf, tough and bitter—not unpleasant, but better for a sauté than a salad. It’s an unsurprising survivor. The feathery, fennel-tasting herb is a wonder, though. With its delicate taste and texture, and I figured it for an annual. Who would have guessed it would return, up before even the dandelions?

so long, sucker

March 3, 2010

When my kaffir lime “tree” arrived, it was little more than a stick with a couple of leaves spurting out of the top. So it’s been exciting to see it branch out in just a couple weeks’ time.

Yesterday I finally got around to reading “How to Grow Dwarf Citrus,” a helpful leaflet that came with the tree.

… Know where the graft is on your tree. It can usually be seen as a diagonal scar between four and eight inches from the soil. Remove all shoot growth below the graft. These suckers take the vitality from the top of the tree (the fruiting wood). Especially on young trees, they are very vigorous….

Of course, it should have been obvious that the fast-growing new branch didn’t really belong. Kaffir lime leaves have a distinctive double-oval shape, whereas these were simple singles. It seemed a shame to hack off something so green and so alive, but gardening requires a certain amount of toughness, and that which does not serve the greater goal must be jettisoned if your efforts are to bear fruit.

It wasn’t a total loss, though. Turns out that while citrus rootstock leaves don’t have the same heady aroma as true Kaffir lime leaves, they are vaguely citrusy and pleasantly green-tasting. Slivered, they make a very nice addition to hot water and honey.