Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa

Happy Memorial Day!

Today is the day many people use as the excuse to declare the opening of official grilling season. What better complement to your grilled veggies or meats than a tasty, easy to make, salsa?

This recipe was given to me by my daughter, Inga. I’m not sure where she got it, but once I tasted it at her home recently, I knew I had to make it soon! The day after I got back from my trip to the mainland, I bought the tomatillos and got to work. I had all the other ingredients already. I’ve eaten some everyday since then!

If you are a gardener, you might want to try growing your own tomatillos. Inga has great luck with them, but I haven’t. I may try again this year, but they are easier to find in my local grocery store.

I know you’ll look for any excuse to make this – and eat it, too! For those of us who watch our waist, this recipe contains almost no calories and no fat!

Roasted Tomatillo-Chile Salsa

10 ounces tomatillos, husks removed, tomatillos rinsed and dried
(The number would depend on the size of tomatillos, but generally about 12-15)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 chipotle chiles (canned in adobo sauce)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1pinch sugar
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat broiler. Place tomatillos and garlic on a baking sheet. (I sprayed it with a light coating of canola oil spray)

Broil, turning occasionally, until charred, about 8-10 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze garlic from skins into a blender. Add chipotles and tomatillos to blender. Process until combined. Add salt, sugar and cilantro. Pulse until smooth.

Notes from Inga: I don’t cut the tomatillos. They get very soft after cooling down from the broiling and you can throw them in the blender whole. I buy the smallish can of chipotles and it will usually make 3-4 batches. I get a few baggies opened up and ready to fill. Once I open the can, I put 3-4 in each baggie, plus the ones in the blender for the current batch, then split the sauce between each baggie. I keep the baggies in the freezer for the next batches. Some chiles are bigger than the others, so that’s why some baggies get 3 chiles and others 4. Just eyeball it.

A hui hou!

Lessons from Lava

The official theme of this blog is ” homesteading, food, travel, and philosophy from the side of a volcano in rural Hawai`i.” So far, I’ve done mostly the first three, but very little of the fourth – philosophy. I could elaborate philosophically on many topics, and over the next few months, bear with me as do more of that.

The official title of this blog is “Lava to Lilikoi,” and that is a great deal like saying “how to make lemonade out of lemons.” In other words, when given an acre of lava, how do you produce lilikoi (our name for passion fruit) in abundance?

The drought has discouraged me from doing a lot of gardening, although I did plant 45 garlic cloves this week! They don’t like a lot of water, so this area should be perfect for them. I bought a pound of California softneck garlic from an heirloom seed company, since most stores sell garlic that is treated to prevent it from sprouting. (I understand that health food stores might have organic non-treated garlic, however.)

The opening photo shows some of these garlic bulbs, plus a few miniature pumpkins from the grocery store, and a couple of even tinier acorn squash that never did grow big enough to eat!

One of the many lessons of gardening I have learned has been not to plant anything that requires plenty of water, plenty of rich soil, or a different climate.

For example, my geraniums have taken over various spots of my acre, and they add a great deal of color to an otherwise gray landscape. Herbs in pots are growing nicely. I have been able to get some delicious beets and arugula occasionally. My donkey tails seem to do well. Palms that don’t require a lot of water are doing okay. Various flowering shrubs have done fine (when the Mouflon sheep don’t eat them). Other veggies did quite well when we had regular rains, or when the birds didn’t eat them.

Please don’t mistake this for complaining! I’m just stating facts about my own particular situation. Everyone in my garden club seems to be suffering from the drought, too.

So on this weekend after Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks for the beautiful ancient ohia trees scattered around my acre, for the hens that give me delicious fresh eggs, for the splashes of magenta, purple, orange, blue, red, pink , white and yellow that adorn my lava “lawn,” for a year-round temperature that allows me to be free from snow and ice. Living and gardening on lava makes me thankful for every single sprout!

I’m also grateful for my friends, whether here or on the mainland, who keep in touch; for my students who challenge me, and who keep my mind active and alert; for good health that permits me to continue gardening and teaching; and for my family members who make me proud to be their mama, grandma, and great-grandma, sister, cousin and aunt!

Finally, I’m grateful for my little Katrina, a sweet and photogenic joy in my life! Doesn’t she look pretty in blue?

A hui hou!

Shades of Green

Living on an acre of lava that offers many shades of black and gray, I might quote the Muppets and say, “It’s not easy being green.” I forget what it means to be green.

Friends from the mainland came to visit and were amazed at my catchment system, and for the first time, I had an inkling of just how “green” we live here in Ocean View. I know my friends in California think they are being “green” when they put in a 100 gallon rain barrel. It’s no wonder they are in awe of my 15,000 gallon tank! Still, our planet appreciates every 100 gallons saved.

So much of what we grow and eat here goes through its green stage, like these bananas before they turn yellow . . .

. . . or the coffee berries before they turn cherry red.

Herbs in all shades of green stand close to my kitchen door.

Fresh corn and other veggies offer more shades of green.

Then we have fruits – the enormous jackfruit. . .

. . . and wonderful limes.

I love cooking up a mess of fresh greens from my garden . . .

. . . or a pan of this brilliant green chard.

There are so many places where shades of green forms a spectacular frame, like this scene from Kauai.

Mostly green forms a background to other colors of Hawaii. . .

. . . or for our sensational orchids, and other flowers.

St. James Park in London provides another backdrop for early spring flowers.

Our Hawai`ian fauna also comes in shades of green. There is the florescent green of the Jackson. . .

. . .and the dark almost black green of the sea turtles.

The stately ti plants are considered good luck when planted around your home.

The green lotus leaves create a sense of serenity and peace.

The many pictures of green in my albums would fill a few coffee table books, each one another category of my life. This is only a small sampling of my green pictures. Beyond the visual green, there is a lot of symbolism to be found in the color green. I think I’d better reserve that for a future post!

A hui hou!

All Is Not Lost!

Mahalo to those of you who have sent condolences about my drought-ridden garden! I have a tendency to get discouraged, and wonder if we will ever get rain. It looks like I’ll need to order my fifth load of water for the catchment tank this next week, unless we get a heavy rain in the meantime (which doesn’t look likely).

Mostly it’s been my vegetable garden that has suffered. I can’t seem to get enough water on them, no matter how hard I try. My attempt to conserve water for personal use (like bathing, flushing, and cooking) means I can’t water as often or as deep as I’d like. What my veggies need is a nice overhead soaking from the skies. Anyone know how to teach me to do a rain dance out there??

All is not lost, however. Like the new sprout at the bottom of my red ti plant above, there is still life. For some strange reason, my flowers are doing well. There is just enough of a mist occasionally to keep my brilliant nasturtiums blooming and spreading.

The geraniums don’t seem to need as much water as other plants. In fact, these magenta ivy geraniums are going crazy. I need to do a “dead head” job on them, but they are a gorgeous spot of color from my kitchen window.

The pikake blooms are sweet smelling and provide a nice contrast to the magenta behind them.

I’ve tried to pick my figs regularly, even though I only get one or two a week. They are a little morsel of flavor. Perhaps someday I’ll get enough to actually make some fig jam! I was about a day too late to pick these two. The birds got there first.

One plant that doesn’t need much watering and seems to keep growing during this drought is the tillandsia cyanea (Pink Quill), part of the Bromeliad family. Mine are all full of the pink brachts with tiny purple flowers. Locally, many call this “Kamehameha’s Paddles.”

Most everything that is in a pot seems to have fared much better, but even then they need a constant watching. I have two of these cardoon (also called artichoke thistle). It is a relative of the Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) and is grown for its stem, which I assume is cooked up for eating. I’ve never grown this before so it will be an interesting experiment. Does anyone know if the thistle can be eaten like a regular artichoke?

These four basils grown in pots are doing well. They are purple basil, lime basil, cinnamon basil, and sweet basil. They are right outside my kitchen door for handy use. The basil I planted in the ground was eaten by birds before I even had a chance to cover them with netting. Fast and hungry critters, they are!

This broad-leaf sage is doing quite well in a pot. I transplanted it from the ground in order to keep it going. It was starting to die in the ground, but has made an amazing come-back.

This little society garlic is in a pot for now. I may move it to the ground somewhere once the rains come.

Plants like hibiscus and geraniums don’t have much trouble surviving.

The lime tree was taken out of a large pot and put into the ground a couple months ago, and it’s doing well. There are already new blossoms on it. I tripled the number of drips going to it since the palms and bromeliads (on the same drip system) didn’t need as much.

I planted several stems of this purple flower and those have taken root quite well. They are now providing me with lovely blooms. Many friends say they have this plant, but don’t know the name of it. If anyone can tell me, please write!

This was another twig given to me. There was a bunch of this growing in Monty’s and Bob’s garden that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Bob called it “Jessup” but I haven’t been able to find anything about it on Google. I keep getting sent to people and places, but not to a plant. Another one that I don’t know. Any suggestions?

Of course, I find it impossible to kill my red chard. It tastes so good in a quick stir-fry with garlic and olive oil. For every leaf I pick, two more come up! A small patch of this keeps me in good greens.

This poha (Cape Gooseberry) is growing quite well, too. I’ve been saving up some of the berries to plant so I can get more bushes. I just had a bowl of poha ice cream in downtown Kona this past week. Absolutely wonderful!

The leaves on this petite orchid don’t look healthy, but the delightful blooms (less than an inch across) are poking out to be admired.

This tri-color stromanthe is managing to survive. I love the three colors of this striking plant.

At last, these three donkey tails found a home in hanging planters right outside my dining room window. They sat on my front steps for over a year, so some of them are not hanging down as straight as they would ordinarily. They have not needed much water to keep growing. Maybe as they get longer and heavier, they will straighten out.

Out of all the seeds I planted of this Thai hot pepper, only two survived. I gave one to a friend as a gift, and this one I’ll keep. Last year, I got dozens of peppers from one plant and since only one or two of these tiny peppers are more than enough for a good hot flavor, one plant is probably enough. I’ll put this in a larger pot next week.

I have about six or seven of these seeds for a Sago Palm (Cycad) that were harvested by a friend on Maui. They had to be soaked, then stripped, and planted on their sides, half-way submerged in soil. They are starting to split and this one is even showing a bit of green. They are very slow growing, so maybe my grandchildren will see a plant from these seeds.

This is an autograph tree given to me by a colleague. It has been growing nicely, but you can see that something bigger than a bug (probably the mouflin sheep) has been taking huge bites out of the leaves. Animals are looking for anything they can find that might provide them with a little moisture.

One triumphant story is the cauliflower. Just a few weeks ago, I went out to find the leaves stripped down to the center vein. Most people have agreed that it is more than likely the caliche pheasants. I continued to water them, wondering if they would revive. Voila! They have huge leaves again and just might make it. I’ll try to put something over them so the caliche won’t get them again.

So that’s the latest from the lava field. My posts have slowed down a bit lately, but each fall semester, I teach five college courses. That takes up most of my spare writing time. Once I’m back into a good rhythm of school, I’ll do better.

A hui hou!

Last of Summer Gardening

Nothing spells the approach of autumn better than a bright orange pumpkin patch. How my daughter manages to get such beautiful pumpkins is beyond me! Many of you have been keeping up with my daughter Inga’s gardening in Boise, Idaho. Here is an update on what’s growing in her yard, including the pumpkin above.

Her yard is full of orange and yellow blossoms, just ready to produce fruit, but beautiful in their own right.

I have an old wooden ladder in my shed. I need to drag it out and use it as a backdrop for some plants (if the drought will let something grow)!

She finds odd bits of metalwork to add a fanciful touch to her garden.

I love the brilliance of sunflowers – another touch of the approaching fall season.

She tells me of all the wonderful fresh veggies she brings in for her supper.

But the biggest envy I have is for her “taters!” Inga and I just love our fingerling potatoes, sliced and fried in butter with fresh eggs!

I promise her (and myself) that I will get to Boise next summer and enjoy the garden with her.

A hui hou!

Gazpacho with Crumbled Feta Cheese

I learned about Gazpacho when I first moved to California in 1960. It was a huge fad at that time, and I was knocked over by it! It’s been called everything, including “liquid salad,” but whatever you call it, it’s simply delicious!

This may seem like a summer-only dish to many of the mainlanders, but in California, and especially here in Hawai`i, we can eat it year-round.

The beauty of a healthy serving of Gazpacho is that you can put almost any kind of raw veggie into it. Take your pick from:

fresh tomatoes (about 2-3 pounds cut into quarters, skin and all)
cucumber
carrots
onion
bell peppers (I used a combination of orange, red, yellow baby bells)
garlic
hot pepper (maybe a Jalepeño)

Zap it up in a blender or food processor until thick and chunky.

Store it in the fridge until it’s good and cold.

Ladle it into a bowl, top with crumbled feta and sprigs of cilantro.

To go with this, I like to serve a good loaf of crunchy rustic bread fresh from the oven, and maybe a big hunk of sharp cheese.

Dig in!

Gardening From A to Z

Two of my favorite landscapers (Bob and Monty) invited a group of us “tree huggers” to come tour their garden. Since the land on their property is much like that of Ocean View, I gathered lots of how-to ideas on what to grow and what not to grow.

Their elevation is about the same as mine (2300 feet), same rocky lava ground, with perhaps a little more rainfall than I receive, although everyone is experiencing the drought now. Even without much rain this year, my first impression of their acreage was very tropical, what mainlanders picture as being “Hawai`i.”

Since I have said this post is about gardening from A to Z, I suppose I’d better start with A. The rest of the alphabet will be mixed up, however, and maybe I’ll end up at Z!

I love these large deep blue Agapanthus, shown here in front of Stromanthe. The Agapanthus in my garden is smaller and more of a baby blue.

The guys have concentrated their efforts on saving the native Hawai`ian trees, like this tall ‘Ohe Makai by their gate. Like many of the Hawai`ian natives, this particular tree is on the endangered list.

A couple of other native plants they have growing are the Ulei or Hawaiian Rose . . .

. . . and the Hala Pepe.

According to Wikipedia, there are seven native Hawaiian hibiscus species. The striking native white hibiscus is one of those.

Monty’s primary interest seems to be the palms. Soft paths through the palms were everywhere.

I lost track of how many varieties of palms we saw. It seemed like we walked for miles through palm groves.

What rests below the top layer of rocks is one of the factors we all deal with here. If the drainage is stopped by a solid layer of lava, plants don’t grow well. Of those palms planted at the same time, some are quite tall, and others look like they have never grown, due to this layer that hinders root growth.

This Fishtail Palm could be one of the largest of its kind. They are rapid growers and intimidate all the other palms.

No tropical garden is complete without its anthurium plants. . .

. . . or ginger . . .

. . . or banana. This particular banana is not common. (Dare I say it’s “rare”?) It puts out two stalks of bananas each time. If you look closely, you can see them. Even the keiki (babies) that come up after the mama plant has died have the double growth.

Bob tells the story of them going to a nursery in Pahoa to buy a rhododendron, and came home with 39 of them! He said to place the plant on top of the lava, then mound cinder around it. The roots will go down between the big rocks and the small feeder roots will spread out into the cinder. I’m going to try (just) one, I think.

Spots of color were scattered throughout the acreage.

Tucked here and there were other familiar plants, such as donkey tail, ti plants, butterfly bush, and stromanthe.

We saw a few familiar plants in a variety that weren’t as typical as what we have in our own gardens, like this tri-colored jade and variegated monstera.

There were several healthy specimens of staghorn fern.

Various protea are usually found in our tropical gardens, like these banksia (not in bloom at this time), king and pincushion proteas shown here.

For me, one of the most stunning flowers was the passion flower, not the same as the lilikoi we normally have growing.

It seems everyone is suffering from either drought, effects of vog, or critters like rats, sheep, pigs, caliche pheasants. A few veggies are still producing here.

I particularly loved the delicate little “society garlic.” I was given a few small bulbs to bring home and plant. The flower can be tossed into a salad and the flavor is heavenly. My car probably still smells like garlic (not an unpleasant odor for me)!

Bob said his primary passion is xeriscaping, which is designed to reduce the amount of water generally needed for growth. That means succulents and other drought-resistant plants. I have some of these in my own garden, and I plan to do more.

At the entryway to their home are these lovely cycads, both male and female. Need I point out which is which? It’s the biggest one, of course. (smile)

I started this post with A=Agapanthus. Even though this bromeliad is called “tiger-striped bromeliad, I’ll pretend it’s a Z=Zebra-striped bromeliad to keep with the alphabet theme. (Don’t tell on me!)

A touch of serenity concludes the tour.

Enjoy this slideshow for more pictures than I could include in this post, and for individual shots of those plants I’ve made into a collage.

Click here to view the slideshow. If it takes you to a web page instead of the slide show, click on “slideshow” in the upper left hand corner.

A hui hou!