Oct 182011
 
When planting, put the roots down. This is a crocus
Safron CrocusYou can order your crocus bulbs by clicking here     

One of the most prized and expensive spices: Saffron

There are many bulbs one can plant in the Fall, but only one is the source of a prized spice. The Saffron Crocus is the unlikely home of Saffron, an incredibly expensive and prized spice for cooking.

Crocus sativus thrives in the Mediterranean climates where hot and dry summer breezes sweep semi-arid lands. It can nonetheless survive cold winters, tolerating frosts as low as −10 °C (14 °F) and short periods of snow cover.

Crocus prefers friable, loose,  well-watered, and well-drained clay soils with high organic content. Traditional raised beds promote good drainage.

Harvests are by necessity a speedy affair: after blossoming at dawn, flowers quickly wilt as the day passes. All plants bloom within a window of one or two weeks. You need to carefully collect the threads off the stigma.     

Don’t expect to get rich harvesting your saffron, but maybe you’ll get enough for one delicious meal of Paella. Here’s a great and easy recipe.

Paella

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound chorizo sausage, casings removed and crumbled
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper. Stir in chicken pieces to coat. Cover, and refrigerate.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, and rice. Cook, stirring, to coat rice with oil, about 3 minutes. Stir in saffron threads, bay leaf, parsley, chicken stock, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a separate skillet over medium heat. Stir in marinated chicken and onion; cook 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and sausage; cook 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp; cook, turning the shrimp, until both sides are pink.
  4. Spread rice mixture onto a serving tray. Top with meat and seafood mixture.
Oct 062011
 

Bulbs are easy to plant and care for and require little water. All of the bulbs below are also deer resistant.  You can plant them with impunity, knowing that they’ll be there for you in the Spring.

Lillies in the garden

Lillies

 

Fall is the time to plant many bulbs in your garden.  They will grow over the winter and flower in the Spring. Here are a few easy tips for getting those beauties in the ground. Some of the easiest to grow and care for are Narcissus and Daffodils, Crocus and Dutch Iris.

Plant bulbs in well-draining soil. Generally, the best soil is a sandy loam. Do not plant bulbs shallow! Follow the instructions for planting depths and sunlight requirements. Flower bulbs prefer neutral pH soil. Please do not ever add horse manure, mushroom compost or other “hot” manure or compost to your flower bulb beds.

Planting bulbs

Loosen up the soil and add well aged compost (click to enlarge)

Loosen your soil and add amendments. I move some rocks to the side, but leave the rest for drainage. Then lay out your bulbs on the surface so you can see where they will go.  I like to have mine in a natural setting, not lined up like little soldiers.  I mixed Crocus and Narcissus in the same bed, the short and the tall together.

Firm the bulbs into the soil so that they make good contact with the dirt. The larger bulbs, like the Narcissus, need to be planted with a trowel so that you can get them to the proper depth of 5 – 7  inches. In colder climates, plant deeper, in warmer climates you can plant them a little shallower.

When planting, put the roots down. This is a crocus

Crocus bulb, plant with the root end down

Plant bulbs like this Narcissus in the Fall

Narcissus, root down, growing point up when you plant

Laying out the bulbs in the planting bed

Crocus and Narcissus mixed flowering bed

Crocus naturalized in a meadow

Oct 042011
 
Tubers of bearded iris can be planted in Fall or Spring

Bearded Iris are hardy, drought tolerant and beautiful

When planning your edible landscape design, you need to consider that every plant has its Right Place, both aesthetically and for its growing needs and its Right Time for planting. Before planting be sure to find out what are the best conditions for your plant and when is the best time to plant.

Just as you shouldn’t put plants that are shade loving into the sunny side of life, you can assure yourself of healthier plants when you put them into the ground at the right time.

Foxglove, and Ferns in the shade, right plant, right place

Foxglove and Ferns in the shade

With Winter right around the corner it’s time to think about planting deciduous trees and shrubs and bulbs. Fruit trees are best planted in the winter when they have lost all their leaves and are in their dormant growing mode.  Although they won’t look like they’re doing anything at the top, underground they are establishing healthy roots to support the tree when it starts to sprout leaves.

Order and plant your Spring bulbs now.

In the West, it’s time to plant and sow our natives that will grow with the winter rains through the mild weather. Because California has summer drought, the plants here have adapted to winter rains. Consider sowing wild flowers to cover hillsides for beauty and to prevent erosion.

Consider planting Ceanothus, Manzanita, Wild Gooseberries, and California Wax Myrtle, for beauty, ease of maintenance, low water needs and bird habitat. You’re really getting a lot bang for your buck with these plants.

Ground cover Ceanothus

A strong, beautiful California Native plant, Ceanothus griseus

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