Garden Lifestyle

California Springtime

I am on the road again--springtime--and I am off across the country speaking to gardeners and herbal enthusiasts from coast to coast and in-between.

  • 'Tuscan Blue' rosemary in full bloom in Carolyn and Dick's front yard herb garden in Santa Cruz. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions. 
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Close-up of rosemary blooms--this one is know as 'Golden Rain' or 'Joyce DeBaggio'.
  • Artichoke plants interplanted with green garlic.
  • Hummingbirds love the blooms of pineapple sage--and buzz close to the house right here in the front yard garden.
  • "Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat." Not true! These are divine.  
  • Just-picked basket of gold--lemons that is--from Carolyn's backyard! I don't know if you Californians know how lucky you are to grow citrus trees in your own garden! 
  • Harbingers of spring at the Santa Cruz farmers' market--tasty salad fixins!
  • Homegrown, handpicked and packed, a potpourri of salad greens with calendula petals--doesn't get much better than this.
  • With these bundles of chard, one can see why it is called 'Rainbow'.
  • California bounty--this crop hails from Watsonville--artichoke capital of the U.S.
  • Many hues of baby kale.
  • A study in pink; here is a dazzling array of tulips at the farmers' market.

I’ve just been in Santa Cruz, California, where my dear friend and co-author Carolyn Dille resides with her husband, Dick Walvis. Carolyn and Dick live in a lovely old neighborhood, with very hilly terrain and a distant view of the Pacific. Their gardens are way ahead of mine back in Maryland, since my daffodils were about 3-inches high and just starting to bud when I left, while theirs are at their peak, with some of the earlier varieties already spent. Rosemary and salvias—everything from 6-foot ornamentals to the culinary Salvia officinalis and bright-red blooms of pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) are in full flower, while in my zone 7 garden it is too early to even set out my pineapple sage.

Their backyard garden which is on a slope, is home to blooming plum, almond, California bay, olive trees, and a lemon tree laden with fruit. Planted amongst these trees are huge blooming rosemary bushes, many herbs, flowering bulbs, rose bushes, garlic, artichokes, and numerous perennials. Walking around the neighborhood, I was astounded at the number of sedums and cacti that grow exuberantly in that foggy climate.

I couldn’t wait to visit the Santa Cruz farmers’ market, which was crowded and colorful—with produce and people. Greens of every color were piled high, some of them with purple hues (kale) and brilliant rainbow stems (chard). Brassicas were on display from broccoli and cauliflower to baby Brussels sprouts and pointed cabbages. Tables full of artichokes, asparagus spring onions, leeks and radishes showed the harbingers of spring in full regalia. The array of citrus was incredible—every type of orange that I could think of, and more—from sweet tangelos and mandarins to juicy, blood-red fruits. Yellow spheres from large to small were carefully stacked in pyramids: grapefruits, pommelos (huge and sweet!) and lemons.

We left the market, after drinking shots of amazing homemade sauerkraut juice; our choices were dill pickle, smokey jalapeno, or leek and horseradish sauerkraut! Of course, I had to try the latter since horseradish is herb of the year for 2011 and it is delish! Our bounty of locally-grown vegetables and fruit inspired us to create many memorable meals. I will post a few favorite recipes in the next day or two. Meanwhile you can savor springtime in California with some of the following photos. For those of you in cooler parts of the country, know that spring is coming soon!

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