Archive for the 'Vegetable Garden' Category

Valentine Day at the WineBistro, Monday, February 14

Join us to celebrate Valentine Day and receive a complimentary Jessica Foster Classic Truffle. Jessica makes these incredible truffles which simply melt in your mouth and broadcast those delicious chocolate flavors. Not to be missed!!

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro Vegetable Garden

It is almost Spring and time to think about our Lafond Vineyards vegetable garden. Last year we experimented with various vegetables, some exotic some not, with the purpose of providing fresh vegetables for our Wine Bistro Restaurant. This year I think we have it down to what we can grow, here in Santa Rita Hills and what we can’t. We hope to provide the restaurant during the summer with a fresh selection of natural produce.

The photo shows David Lafond constructing the greenhouse with the garden in the background. Click the image to enlarge the photo.

Watermelon Fun

Rose Moradian on Watermelons

The apex of Summer is lowered now, to the beginning of Autumn; Harvest Time! I’ve been waiting for an entire season to pick and eat Watermelons at the Lafond Garden! Today, I pulled out the watermelon vines and disconnected the melons which are now basking in the sun awaiting consumption.

I now have two large parts of the garden that are finally done , the Winter Squash and Watermelon fields. I’ve had the water off for 6 weeks, as well as the tomatoes, to help ripen the fruit and enhance the flavors, much like wine grapes.

Now I can begin to plant the Winter Vegetables! I chose to plant is Cream of Saskatchewan, an heirloom variety from Russia that is better adapted for cooler climates, like in the Santa Rita Hills. Watermelons are thought to originate in Africa. In Egyptian tombs, watermelon seeds are found with Pharaohs.

African slaves brought seeds with them to the new world, thus the popularity of the fruit in the Southern US. China was and is the biggest producer of watermelons, though the Vietnamese claim they discovered it first. In Asia, Russian and parts of Eastern Europe, watermelon rinds are pickled. To this day in China, roasted Watermelon seeds are the most popular snack.

The seeds are very high in good fats, protein and good oils. Watermelon is the most alkalinizing food ever. Here are some interesting and colorful facts about watermelons from Wikipedia: Art related to the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos commonly depicts watermelons being eaten by the dead or shown in close conjunction with the dead.

This theme appears regularly on ceramics and in other art from the holiday. Watermelons also appear as a subject in Mexican still life art.The Oklahoma State Senate passed a bill on 17 April 2007 declaring watermelon as the official state vegetable, with some controversy as the watermelon is a fruit.

The Citrulline which exists in watermelon (especially in the rind) is a known stimulator of of nitric oxide, NO is thought to relax and expand blood vessels, much like the erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra, and may even increase libido,however no one knows how much watermelon you would have to eat to see similar results to these drug products. This explains why the rind is so popular in other cultures!

Rose Moradian Gardener Extraordinaire

Rose and Abelmoschus

Rose Moradian rhapsodises about Okra

I love pretty flowers and delicious healthy vegetables, and Okra fits the bill for both! A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known vegetable has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare. Okra is in the Abelmoschus or Hibiscus botanical family, Okra is valued for its edible green or sometimes red fruits.

A truly wonderful and useful family of plants; based on research on Okras cousin plant, “Kenaf” scientific name; Hibiscus cannabinus, Okra could, at least in principle, have a future producing things that are strange for a vegetable crop; being grown as a building material, for making paper, cattle feed and fuel.

Okra is easily grown with little or no care, is pest resistant or at least is a survivor of insect infestations, as I can vouch for. Okra needs water weekly before becoming established and from then on needs little water if at all. The flowers are beautiful, as you see, it really is a Hibiscus flower but with out the pests that bother hybrid hibiscus.

I use Okra as a support plant for my vining plants such as cucumbers and some tomatoes as it gets to be 4′ tall. I discovered an article that shows 8′ Okra on the web. At the Pierre Lafond Montecito Deli carries a brand of prepared Okra called “Smokra”. True to its name the Okra in Smokra is pickled with brine in a smoky chipotle red salsa. I regularly devour jars of this and keep the smoky spicy brine for making my vodka cocktails. In Egypt, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Yemen and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean, Okra is widely used in a thick stew made with vegetables and meat.

In Indian cooking, it is sauteed or added to gravy-based preparations and is very popular in South India. In Caribbean islands Okra is cooked up and eaten as soup, often with fish. Breaded, deep fried Okra is served in the southern United States and of course, Okra is the ubiquitous ingredient in Gumbo.

The products of the plant are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic “goo” when the seed pods are cooked. In order to avoid this effect, Okra pods are often stir fried, so the moisture is cooked away, or paired with slightly acidic ingredients, such as citrus or tomatoes.The cooked leaves are also a powerful soup thickener. Okra leaves may be cooked in a similar manner as the greens of beets or dandelions. Okra oil is a pressed seed oil, extracted from the seeds of the okra.

The greenish yellow edible oil has a pleasant taste and odor, and is high in unsaturated fats such as oleic acid and linoleic acid. The oil content of the seed is quite high at about 40%. I am using Okra right now in my Lima bean and tomato soup!

Rose Moradian on Gardens

Rose Shopping for Seeds

When I began seed shopping, I thought of what sorts of veggies would be fun to cook with. I have had stuffed round summer squash before and thought I’d plant that. Round Zucchini have been popular in Europe for years.

The Italians have their dark green Tondo di Piacenza, the French have the light green speckled Ronde de Nice, the Dutch have the “Roly Poly” (a loose translation from Burpee’s marketers) and the British have their single serve striped marrow, Tender and True. There is even Chinese produced seed of an almost white round zucchini.

The common thread is that these zucchini are actually rather nice; solid, nutty, sweet with a low water content so they keep the round shape when cooked. They are extremely early producers and are prolific if you keep harvesting the fruit. I grow a blend of round and near round types that were marketed to chefs and hand collected by a group of seed savers on the East Coast.

The colors range from yellow and silver to dark green and bicolors, all meant to be used in the baby (2-3″) stage. They are so cute! The main ingredient in stuffed zucchini is the insides scooped out and mixed with ricotta cheese and herbs. Some people use meat. I prefer my veggies to be all veggie.

I found a vegan recipe online: Vegan Rice Stuffed Zucchini.

2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 large zucchini OR two to three small round zucchinis
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
8-10 basil leaves, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 shredded vegan mozzarella

Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add basmatic rice and let cook for about 45 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Do not cut zucchini in half. Core out the center of the zucchini, leaving a nice cylindrical shell. Take zucchini center that you cored out and chop up.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet saute garlic and onion for about 4-5 minutes. Add basil and saute another minute or two. Add tomato, zucchini, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Cook until zucchini becomes soft. Mix cooked rice and cheese with zucchini mixture and spoon into zucchini cylinder.

Place in a glass baking dish and put into the oven. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Rose Moadian for the Bistro & Wine Bar

The Bistros Vegetable Garden

Rose Moradian’s garden is looking fabulous. The combination of flowers and vegetables is a wonderful combination. Driving into the winery’s property the 10 foot high Sunflowers are impressive, standing as guards at the entrance. Several years ago we wondered what would be a good use for this small plot — too small really for grapes — and I think we came up with the right solution.

Delicious Cob of Corn

After much deliberation and excitement, I picked the first ears of corn today! I plucked an ear off, tenderly tore the husk and silk off and bit right into a DELICIOUS cob of corn! I could feel the magic of the earth carouse through my body, an exciting rush of natural sugars triggering my fantasy of rolling around the corn field devouring every ear in sight.

It made me giddy! I had to wait a few hours to drive I felt so high from eating it right there on the spot it was grown! I am surprised, because corn can be a tricky crop to grow and bugs love it. Organic methods of corn bug control are few. Because of the pollination requirements the wind is the only force that can pollinate corn, unlike open flowered crops like squash in which bees’ bumble around drinking nectar from flower to flower inadvertently pollinating the crop.

Since I don’t have even an acre to plant on, I was worried that I may not have planted enough close together. I grew peas in with the corn to provide a natural nitrogen boost to the soil and corn is a natural trellis that supports vines. I went ahead and planted sunflowers there, too, just for artistic effect. The choices of corn varieties are many so I decided to plant just one kind at that time to ensure proper pollination. The following 4 successions of corn plantings I had 50% success unfortunately.

Then the time came where I had to decide what to do with the two side shoots that occur on each stalk as the plant begins to gain in height. UC Davis and many other agricultural website I consulted advised to leave them on but with no explanation as why. Many of my Latino friends advised to get rid of them immediately, it was bad for the plant. So, I left some on a few and got rid of a few.

Months later the side shoots I left on formed ears that are short, stumpy and flat that popped out of their husk before any thing else was ready. The bugs loved those. Incredibly, the regular ears developed normally with NO insects! Nature made a little catch crop! The corn makes those homely little pretend ears of corn to protect the good stuff. Smart plants! Good information to know for the home gardener!

My co-worker, Mirella, at Lafond Vineyards, told me that she makes a creamy corn and pasilla soup with queso fresco cheese. The way she described it made my mouth water. I personally cannot get the corn home to cook it, I end up eating it raw the moment I touch it. I promise to restrain myself enough to bring to the Bistro and Market Deli for you to enjoy!

An Abundance of Beans by Rose Moradian

I’ve been growing peas and beans right next to each other a our Bistro Garden. I installed two 80′ trellises, and grow beans on side peas on the other. Its easy to see and reach to pick that way. We had great peas earlier and I will plant them again in the Autumn, but now its BEAN TIME! I have a mixture of pole beans, bush beans and french filet beans all together. There are several types of beans I’m growing; POLE BEANS – In general, pole beans are later than bush beans but have larger pods.

They should be given poles, string, or a fence to climb on and usually will climb about 8 feet.”Northeaster” gives a very heavy yield of very long flat green beans and is early for a pole bean. “Goldmarie” is a wonderful wax bean similar to Northeaster. It has long flat yellow pods, is a heavy yielder, and is perhaps slightly earlier than Northeaster “Romano” is large and slightly flat with a wonder flavor. FILET BEANS – These are French green beans that are generally early producers.

They are usually picked when the pods are very slim. Older varieties develop strings fairly rapidly but newer varieties tend to be stringless. “Fin de Bagnols” is a traditional long podded variety. The pods of “Deuile fin Precoce” are long and large and heavily streaked with purple. The large seeds are buff speckled with purple. “Blue Lake” is a heavy yielder with beans that remain tender and stringless for a long time. BUSH BEANS-short and early, I’m growing “Purple Podded” “Rattlesnake” striped beans as well. RUNNER BEANS – Runner beans have large showy flowers, usually red or white, and will cross with each other but not with other beans.

The plants have runners from 4′ or 5′ long to twice that length. They like a lot of water and should be given something to climb on. The pods are long and plump, and rough textured. The oval seeds are very large and plump. Eat as a snap bean, or a fresh or dry shell bean. I will be growing Fava and Lima beans as well as Cowpeas in the near future. My favorite way of eating beans is straight off the bush, but I’m funny that way. Aside from that practice, if the beans is Romano type, that is, long, I will cut them up and sauté with butter and garlic.

The best way I like to eat beans at a restaurant is Niçoise Salad, so satisfying! When I went to Las Vegas and stayed at the Bellagio, I ordered this in for my lunch and dinner! All of these ingredients, except for the fish, can be acquired a few steps away from each other at the Lafond Vineyard. So fresh, so healthy, so delicious! If we are what we eat, then I’m in health heaven. Look for Lafond Produce to be featured at Pierre Lafond Deli Montecito soon, as well as the Bistro.
Bean Appetit!

Bistro Vegetable Garden Slideshow

[ Image can be enlarged by clicking. ]

Photos taken this week of the Bistro Vegetable Garden at the Lafond Vineyards. The garden was created and is managed by Rose Moradian. Rose will shortly, as well as supplying the Bistro, be displaying her work at the Pierre Lafond Deli in Montecito.

This is the first year of the garden and we will be experimenting with different items seeing what grows best in this environment. Using the French concept of ’terroir’, as we do with grapes, to produce the finest product we can.

Cucumbers from the Bistro Vegetable Garden

Rose Moradian on Cucumbers

Cucumbers are known for their green skin, but did you know that they come in different colors? White cucumbers are probably better known in Europe and Asia where they are used in cooking and pickling. Because of their high water content, cucumbers are very cool; their internal temperature can read much lower than the surrounding air temperature.

I decided to grow unusual cucumbers, both heirloom and newer hybrids this year. So I turned to the Asian seed catalogues and a small seed collective in Long Island for some unusual cucumber hybrids. As you can see, we have success. We have “Boothbys Blonde” which is an heirloom variety which turns orange when over ripe but still tastes very good; “Pearl”, which is an Asian cucumber and “Cucino” which is a green cucumber.

Generally there are three types of cucumbers; slicing which are long, smooth and slender;or pickling kind that are large, spiny and chunky, or the beloved “Lemon cucumber” that is round and yellow. Then there’s gherkins or corniches; tiny little cucumbers that taste a little more lemony than regular cukes. Cucumbers are technically a fruit, containing their seeds, but are perceived as a vegetable because of their flavor being bitter sweet site.

Cantaloupes and cucumbers are kissing cousins and in some countries cantaloupes are pickled when they’re young and fuzzy and eaten like pickles. Cucumbers are vines that you can support on a trellis as I do, or let them snake around on the ground. They prefer heat. They are susceptible to fungus on the leaves so its important to keep the leaves dry when watering.

Fertilize regularly with fish emulsion. Pick them carefully with sharp scissors, as twisting them off can disturb the rest of the vine. I love my cucumbers raw but there are many recipes that include them. In India, cucumbers are staple, so you’ll find them in many Indian dishes. “Raita” is basically dill and cucumber soup that is a dip in India. See CookThink and Recipe.

When I’m in the field harvesting, having a juicy cucumber is the best treat; its as satisfying as any sweet treat and helps to rehydrate.