Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Friday, September 28, 2012

book reviews and give away!

Dear Readers,

Ellen & Ellen are offering two new and very different books as giveaways. We've reviewed them both below and look forward to judging  your comments! Write a few sentences about your favorite discovery growing edibles (if you want book # 1) or orchids (if you want book # 2).  It might be something most gardeners know but you unearthed for yourself, or a secret you're ready to share with the world. 

We're looking for personal experiences, either positive or negative. Please post your comments by Oct.12th and we'll announce by Oct. 19th.  And please don't enter for both books; we want to spread the literary joy as wide as we can.

The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook, by Leeann Lavin is a lavish book of conversations with farmers from the fertile North and South Forks of Long Island, along with top local chefs. Leeann  profiles these Farmers and Chefs as co-dependents in the dance of the local harvest. Large and lush photographs by Lindsay Morris & Jennifer Calais Smith make you want to run this weekend to one of the fabulous restaurants that base their menus on local and seasonal crops at their freshest.

Farm-to-plate is a hot topic these days, and on Long Island it makes a lot of sense because the crops are so diversified; from seafood of all types caught by local fishermen, to local wine from the vineyards, cheeses, and of course the greens, beets, corn, tomatoes, raspberries; fruit and veg of all kinds. Recipes look extremely flavorful, yet simple to produce, enticing enough to try.

In a regional book of this kind, part of the fun is in personal recognition; my moment came in the profiles of Chef Eberhard Muller and his wife Pauline Satur of Satur Farms.  I had dined in Paris at the Michelin three-star L'Archestrat where Muller had been chef and where I  first tried a miraculous new concept called a tasting menu.  Now living in Manhattan, I order my groceries online from Fresh Direct, which offers a special category of local foods; Satur Farms greens have often been on my marketing list.

This book will surely please you if you have any connection at all to the area, or know someone who does. ESP

Aphid in my Eye gives the reader a nostalgic glimpse into a bygone era of orchid growing, when orchid societies stressed SOCIETY and orchids were high-priced rarities, rather than big box store loss leaders.  Tom Powell's memoir is a humorous, fast read, full of idiosyncratic caricatures and stories just weird enough to be believable.  Most of all it's a love letter to his wife Betty, with whom he survived encounters with a wife-swapping deacon, a psychic who spoke to orchids, and a chauffeured orchid thief who cried poverty.  Aphid in my Eye is an entertaining book, written with horticultural know-how and love. EZ

Friday, September 21, 2012


Make a simple poached or grilled salmon, decorate the plate with fresh herbs like basil and variegated sage, thin slices of cuke or zucchini, whatever you have at the moment; cantaloupe and lemon for more color and people think you're a genius. BUT......
 Whether your basil is one of the red varieties, or green, whether you grew it or will run out and buy it at the greenmarket,
it will soon all be gone in the NYC area. Basil wilts and blackens at the slightest hint of cold weather so wait no longer; it's time to preserve basil and all annual herbs for winter. I usually cut some of my perennial herbs at the same time to give myself a head start. Pick off any yellow or damaged leaves, and rinse thoroughly. Shake off excess water.
In the picture above clockwise from top left, basil, stevia, thyme and mint. Allow to air-dry on a clean towel for an hour or two. Put each herb in a separate freezer bag, press out excess air, seal and label with a pen. It's hard to grab the right bag of green stuff after it's frozen. Freeze. It will be perfect until spring if you have enough to last that long, far tastier than any dried herb I've ever had. It will however be limp and not too pretty, so don't expect to decorate your salmon filets with frozen herbs unless well chopped.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Regular readers may remember that last fall, the city contractor finally (18 month delay) planted a new pin oak in front of my building, almost doubling the size of the planting pit.
The tree languished with a full compliment of brown leaves until May, when in desperation, it finally made up it's mind to leaf out, as it's three old companions had done six weeks previously.
Building residents were getting restless, would accost me on sidewalk or elevators asking me if the new tree had died. I advised patience, and to support my optimism, planted caladium bulbs in my roasting pan on a south-facing window.

Notice that the pan is foil-lined and obviously has no drainage holes, but I was VERY careful not to over-water. When the outdoor soil had fully warmed in late May I planted a dozen caladium 'Kathleen', surrounding each tree trunk, just before the block association guys put in the coleus.
It now looks like this.
The caladium are barely visible, the plantings have a true tropical feel and there were enough coleus to dig a few last week, leaving no bare spots. I  put the mature coleus in two new planters until next spring when I do the official planting.

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