Thursday, October 31, 2013

Calories on the Street

We love the San Marzano tomatoes and do not readily share them with anyone but close friends. So when I spotted giant caterpillar poops (really they were still "pooplets," but relatively speaking, they were enormous) under the plants, I knew I had a varmint.

In fact, I had two. Tomato Hornworms. One was almost 5" long. Both were completely yucky. And almost impossible to locate on the vines because of their protective coloration. But if you just look up from the trail of poops (and stifle the squeam-factor), you can eventually find 'em.

And then what to do? They're just too big to squish (you'd never get the mess off your shoes). So I pitched them into the yard waste bin for pick-up later in the week. Let the garbage guys deal with them - they get paid for this kinda stuff.

And then I got to thinking...

These babies must pack a lot of calories, probably some usable proteins and, after eating all those leaves and a coupla green tomatoes, a fair amount of vitamins and minerals. Not that I was planning on eating them, mind you. I'm still not sure about this new idea of cricket bars, which apparently do a good job of disguising the bugs inside. Truth to tell, I'm not even sure about the old timey energy/power bar units. I think they all taste pretty nasty.

But what about my friends' chickens? Chickens love caterpillars, right? So I scooped them back out of the bin, packaged them up in a small paper carton and sent them off to the ladies for lunch.

Hah! Such a sad story. Unlike these birds - the local Oakland gals were afraid. Afraid of a coupla green squishy bugs. So much for Oaktown 'tude...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Go Take a Hike....on the New Bay Bridge

We did. And can recommend it, especially before the old one is completely gone. 'Cause after all these years of traveling over it, you've never seen it look like this before: totally empty. Privately, I wonder if someone will pay enough to be allowed to film some apocalyptic, car-chase movie on the bridge before it is all torn down...

To get onto the pathway, we used the Burma Rd./Maritime St. trailhead near the Port. We went on a weekday morning (be aware that you must walk from the parking area back to the intersection - the way is not obvious - but the trailhead actually starts back there.) and parking was easy. Dress in layers: we started out all bundled up but by the end, were both sweaty hot.

And that's because it's a looong walk. Or at least much longer than I was expecting. Everything I read about the trail mentioned "2.2 miles." But that doesn't count the nearly 2 miles of walking before you can actually get onto the bridge. So count on nearly 8 miles round trip, and on being starved for lunch by the end.
But that little detail didn't stop lots of people from enjoying the outing.  I counted about the same number of bicyclists as pedestrians, the majority of whom were women. Yup, surprised me, too. 

Also along the way we came across an art class from a local elementary school drawing the old bridge, an entire fleet, organized in small pods, though, of parents, grandparents and babysitters pushing strollers, and more than a few older goofballs like us.  Many of the people on the trail were a little giggly, probably because it seemed pretty darn unusual to be walking above the bay.

Everyone had a camera, and stopped repeatedly to take photos. The "real" traffic was also stopped for some of the time, but I doubt they were having nearly as much fun as we were.

Friday, October 11, 2013

I Hate:

 Getting my nails clipped
(even though I get treats afterwards)

photo courtesy of Sari Kulberg

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Amaranth, the Showstopper

Amaranth is once again being touted as the next big thing - a superfood even - but it has been around since before the Aztecs and the Incas lost out to the Spaniards. In the 70's, the Rodale Institute tried to pitch amaranth as the grain of the future, but without much success. This summer I just had to try it: not so much for the superfood aspects, but because I had never tried growing any kind of grain before, and this was a very easy place to start.

Amaranth starts really small - the seeds are so tiny that they cook down into a porridge. When they were still young and tender, we ate the leaves - think "mild spinach." Even better, think "Greek diet."  I convinced the neighbors to try some, and they thought the amaranth was alright, although they found the stems a little tough. (Yeah right, try rainbow chard if you want tough stems.)

Some people apparently add the young leaves to the salad mix, but do not try this at my home. Nor rainbow chard in any form, for that matter.

But amaranth sure knows how to grow. Within a few weeks, the plants were no longer suitable for greens (the seed heads were already forming). Instead they became the Purple Sensation on the block. I met more people over the question of just what the heck was growing up front. And the queries only increased as the number and size of the flowering seed heads expanded.

Ultimately, the plants topped out at about 6 ft., with at least a 3 ft. spread (naw, once again, we couldn't use the walkway. So whose dumb idea was this anyway?)

Be aware that those tiny seeds easily drop from the flower heads, so if you plant amaranth, expect to find many, many, many seedlings coming up next year - just in time for a spring "mess o' greens." No worries, though, they are very easy to pull out.

Many gardeners grow amaranth for the wonderful, long-lasting bouquets they produce. The flowers can also be dried for year-round floral arrangements. (Can be, but not by me. I already have enough things that suffer from a lack of dusting.)

So eat the leaves and share the bounty with your friends and neighbors.