Peanut Noodles

Peanut Noodles

I know a losing battle when I see one, but I’m currently in a fight with bok choy. Despite my aversion to its texture, I love bok choy’s flavor. My former favorite way to have it was in a coconut sauce with cod and sticky rice. But since our household has added fish to our current unapproved list, we’ve been really strapped on ideas for bok choy. (Stir fries. Incessant stir fries.)

So when bok choy came in our farm share this week – for the second week in a row – I sighed a big sigh. It seems only to work with Asian flavors, so I paced our five-foot-long kitchen trying to come up with a non-stir fry Asian meal until I was dizzy, and then remembered an old favorite – peanut noodles!

Bok Choy

Peanut noodles are remarkably easy to make:

  • bunch of scallions (and if you like things garlicy, a clove or two of garlic) sauteed in sesame oil
  • peanut butter – about 1/3 cup
  • soy sauce – 1/4 cup
  • hot water – 1/4 cup
  • ginger
  • cider vinegar – 1 tbsp
  • touch of honey (100% optional)
  • red pepper flakes

We took scallions out of our window garden, and cooked them up with bok choy from our share, and then dumped the rest of the flavors in while cooking some noodles on the side. Uber-delicious, and even better as leftovers.

Sauteed Bok Choy

It has been correctly pointed out to me that I in fact do not know a losing battle when I see one… nor, perhaps, believe in losing battles. Nevertheless, despite this victory, bok choy seems to be winning the war.

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Foot-by-Foot Gardens

Our effort is to increase farming and gardening in the city by planting our own window garden and supporting rooftop gardens, urban farms and farmers markets. But sometimes we can’t help but escape to where the farming and gardening already is. Especially in the summer, the two of us find ourselves sneaking away to help family members with their gardening projects, and spending oodles of time hidden in the country jumping in lakes.

The Lake

It’s likely that we’ll be posting a handful of things that look decidedly un-New York this summer.  But we will continue to bring farms to city folk. For our first un-NY offering is a “foot by foot” garden project that we lent a hand to and think can offer ideas to apartment dwellers on how to grow a reasonable amount of food in a small amount of space – like a window.

My mum started a garden this year where she diligently divided her planter up with rope to section off 12″ by 12″ spaces and plant within each square.

Foot-by-Foot GardenShe’s growing lettuce, swiss chard, beets, peas, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries, various herbs, and other glorious goodies!

Beets

Despite our teenie-weenie apartments, we all have one foot to designate to greenery.  So grow stuff!
(Keep it up, Mom.)

Progress!

For those of you who aren’t near a garden of your own, here’s a sneak-peak at how the summer crops are progressing in our window.

On May 11th —

On May 19th —

Basil

On May 29th —

On June 7th —

And I’m pleased to say that as of five minutes ago, our window garden looked like this!

Progress!

Still awaiting the arrival of our tomatoes, but they’re surely trying. And as this morning I had chives from our garden in eggs from our CSA for breakfast (!),  I’m thinking I can be patient and await our upcoming treats. Seems to be working thus far.

Growing Growing Gone

Window Garden

Now that our wee buds have gotten a little bigger and stronger, the time has come to transplant them to their permanent home! For us, in our apartment, that means a container. For some, it means the ground. We simply placed all the newspaper rounds into a container full of soil. And now, it’s a garden!

Meanwhile, our spinach is shooting up, as are our onions, and we’re compulsively checking on the tomatoes to see if there’s any change there. None yet. But I’m ready.

I was feeling pretty awesome about our vegetable garden until an overly logical friend came over yesterday, peered out of our window skeptically, and said, “Oh great, you’ll have a meal’s worth of food.” I’ve chosen to ignore him… but it still stings.

Wee Buds

Sprouted SpinachSprouts!  Wee buds have erupted in our window garden and look suspiciously like potential food!

Despite incredible environmental odds, our little buds have made an appearance into our home, and are becoming a minor obsession.

“Have you watered the plants today?”

“Yes, of course!”

“Oops.”

“Why?”

“I might have watered them again.  They looked hungry.”

“Are they getting any sun?”

“Does the TV set count?”

“As what?”

“I don’t know, some form of light?”

“No.”

“Have you spoken to them today?”

“I played them Mozart.”

“Mozart is for babies, not plants.”

“What’s for plants?”

… Excessively.  I’ve pre-booked a psychologist for their future developed zucchini and spinach-selves to deal with the neuroses caused by their smothering parents.

Also, due to the auspicious start of our buds, I have become predictably cocky about the color of my thumbs.  And have therefore jumped the proverbial gun and planted cherry tomatoes, as of this evening.  I am clearly doomed for a smack-down.

Cherry Tomatoes

Please RSVP

As one of my favorite human beings said to me yesterday, “Winter, when you’re this late to the party, don’t show up at all.”  And as she, slightly north of us, expected SNOW last night she has reason to revoke her RSVP.

The fickle change in weather patterns is putting a serious damper on our One Square Foot project.  Our windowsill is either too cold to promote growing – with chills radiating through the glass – or the heater is blasting nearby enough to dry our poor baby buds right out.

Spring, why do you tease me so?

We’ve been diligently watering and trying to fend off both the stifling heat and the bitter cold, adjusting temperatures, fitfully moving plants off the radiator, onto the radiator, off the radiator… but we haven’t given up hope.  I’m going to love these damn plants ’til they bud, whether they ask to or not.  Winter unwelcome.

One Square Foot

When my hubs and I attended the Just Food Conference in February, it was structured to give large talks at the beginning and end of the day with small seminars in the middle (of which there were many to choose from).  We agonized between School Food Solution; Racism in the Food System; Building Your Own Community Supported Kitchen; Hydroponics, Aquaculture, and Aquaponics; Strengthening Urban Agriculture in NYC… and more, ad nauseum.

We chose our workshops pretty well, but by the end wished we’d had another month to fill in the blanks.  (Although by Saturday afernoon we were seeing spots that looked remarkably like kale and apples and were happy to have Sunday to eat junk food — I mean…)  One of the seminars we partook in was One Square Foot: Grow & Own Your Own Food in thBig Apple with Jennifer Berg.  The pitch being that even with merely a window in New York you can grow your own vegetable garden.

“Ha!” you say.  And so do we.

But she gave us a pretty clear step-by-step and we are going to give it the ol’ college cliche.  And she promised that even if all you have is a northern facing window, which we do, seeds will sprout.  I’ll key you in to progress… if there is any.  And beforehand, show you how it’s done.

“All you need,” said Mrs. Berg, our host, “is a bag of soil, some newspaper, a can, and a bag of seeds.”  Bag of soil, check.  Newspaper, check.  Bags of spinach, zucchini, and scallion seeds, check.  And if we have any luck with these, I’m trying cherry tomatoes.

We were shown how to make a planter by rolling a piece of newspaper around a can and scrunching the leftover paper into the bottom.  It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to stay together for a couple of weeks.

Fill the paper planter about halfway with soil, put a couple seeds of your choice in, cover them with soil, and finally water.

Once the plants have sprouted to about an inch and a half, you place the entire newspaper planter into a large container full of soil, and the newspaper will eventually disintegrate.  Apparently newspaper ink is made of soy (who knew?!) and will not harm your veggies one bit.

New York is notoriously confined for space.  Like, for example, my husband and I living in a studio apartment with two cats and the occasional guest, or two – sometimes three.  It is always snug in this city.  So finding outdoor spaces to grow vegetables is a coveted experience.  Most of us can’t do it.  But a small project like this can give you the reward of an urban vegetable garden, or at least close to it, and gives a little more control in knowing what you’ll be eating this season as our CSA approaches.

We’re going to give it a try.  We’d love to have our windows full of delicious treats to gnaw on, through the summer of course, but ideally even through the winter months.  And we even have a tiny outdoor ledge just big enough for a few planters, so once the weather evens out a bit we’ll be transporting our planters and our big bowl of mustard greens (from the Natural History Museum farmers market (see above)) and have ourselves a wee garden.