Garden Log ~ March, 2011

Fig Plant ~ Spring 2011
Fig in Spring

This will be my third year of vegetable gardening and I am very much looking forward to working and harvesting. Now, I feel more experienced with Houston seasons and I am also putting my experience to good use. I am working as a garden consultant to two first time home gardeners. I am advising them with design layout, plant selection etc, enjoying the role very much.:)

Last year, I employed succession planting to maximize the limited space I have and the growing period. During spring I started with cool season spring crop (peas, green beans, yellow and green zucchini, cucumbers, methi). Followed by a Houston-heat loving summer crop (turia-beerakaaya, papdi lilva-chikkudu, karela-kakara, okra-benda, gongura etc).

This strategy worked. I had a steady harvest throughout the growing season, from April till the end of November. During those months, my expenses on buying vegetables from stores was less than ten dollars a week, usually it would be around thirty dollars. During the past growing season I would only buy onions, carrots and fruits from the stores and all other vegetables that had cooked were from my garden. Not only my kitchen needs were met, I was also able to share the excess vegetable harvest with friends. Succession planting is a joy and I am planning to stick with this strategy this year as well. If weather permits and I could, I would also do a third fall crop.

Here are the list of plants I planted for this growing season:

Box 1: Okra, Peanuts, Fennel Bulbs, Kohlrabi, Tomatillo, Kerala Potatoes

Box 2: Tomatoes (Celebrity, Cherry Tomatoes), Cantaloupe (from last year seeds)

Box 3: Vines – Green Beans, Peas, Cucumber (Persian and Pickle), Lemon-cuke (budamkaya), Malabar Spinach (bacchali)

Box 4: Vines – Zucchini (yellow), Mexican Squash, Grapes, Papdi-liva&Valor (chikkudu), Chinese and Indian Karela, Turia (beerakaaya) (for summer)

Box 5: Aaku Kuralu – Methi, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Coriander, Purslane (payala), Amaranth (thotakura), Gongura (for summer)

Box 6: Herbs – Mint, Rosemary, Marjoram (maruvam), Lemongrass, Turmeric, Dodda Patre (Coleus Aromaticus, Karpooravalli)

Box 7: Peppers – Pequin, Guntur, Habanero, Cayenne. Bell Peppers and Banana Peppers

Box 8: Brinjal – Fairy tale, Japanese, Indian and Italian

Box 9: Tomatoes – Better boy, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple

Planning to try out something new – Tuvar and Parval

Here are the boxes in long shot:


Boxes 1, 2, 3 and 4


Boxes 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9


Fruit Trees ~ Cherry of Rio Grande, Orange, Loquat, Mandarin, Fig, Guava (looks dead right now due to last winter frost), Pomegranate

Garden Log: April, 2010 ~ The Second Year
Garden Log: March, 2009 ~ The Beginning

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What are you planning to grow this season? Any new ideas? I would love to hear from you fellow garden enthusiasts.

Party in the Park ~ Houston Holi

“Holi” – the festival of colors is one of Houston’s favorite festivals. Every year, Indian Association, Gujarati Samaj and Masala Radio together organize a fun filled, Holi celebration in a Houston city park. Nearly 10,000 to 12,000 people come from all parts of Texas to this event. Colors, food, dance programs plus pleasant weather and spring holiday break make Holi celebrations a hugely popular, favorite family event. We go every year and always had fun. The celebrations for this year were today at Seabourne Creek Park in Rosenberg. Here are some photos of Holi hungama.

Sunil and Priyanka ~ Masala Radio DJs
Sunil and Preyanka ~ DJ’s and Organizers of “Party in the Park ~ Houston Holi” Event

Auto Riksha
Auto Riksha from India ~ Transport Mascot of Houston Holi

Houston Holi Celebrations
Holi Balloon Decorations in front of a Food Stall

Houston Holi Celebrations
Entertaining Dance Programs by Houston Youth

Houston Holi Celebrations
Bhangra for Holi

Houston Holi Celebrations
Traditional Dress Fashion Show by a Local Designer

Houston Holi
The Crowd, Watching the Holi Event

Houston Holi
buranaa maano, Holi Hai” ~ Fun with Colors

Houston Holi
Fresh Sugar Cane Juice (Ganne ka Ras, Cheraku Rasam) ~ Our Favorite Holi Beverage

Houston Holi Celebrations
See You Next Year ~ The Holi Hiranyakashyap

Spring under the Holi Moon

The First full moon of Spring 2011. A renewal of the growing season.
Here are some photos from my garden.

Spring Moon
Peaceful and Pleasant ~ Spring Time Holi Moon

Jasmines in Bloom
Perfume in the Air ~ Jasmine Flowers (Chambeli)

Gardenia Flower
Gorgeous Gardenia

Orange Flowers
Beautiful Buds ~ A first for my Orange (mandarin) Plant

A Rose
A Rose Under the Moonlight

In Season: Asparagus with Buckwheat Noodles

Houston has spring like weather since third week of February. That means the beginning of planting season. I had been in the garden, cleaning the garden beds, starting seedlings and planting vegetable plants. Kind of lost in spring sunshine, and who can resist the spring charm?

Spring means asparagus is in season. I bought a bunch of tender asparagus last weekend and prepared a Thai inspired Buddha’s bowl for today’s meal. A complete vegetarian one-pot meal with asparagus and buckwheat (soba) noodles in homemade sweet and sour peanut sauce. You can of course, buy ready-made sauce but the sauce is easy to prepare at home using the ingredients that are already in pantry and that’s what I did. Buckwheat noodles which are prepared from buckwheat flour have a unique texture and flavor that I enjoy. With fresh asparagus and in flavorful sauce, it was a nutritious, filling Buddha’s bowl. Imagine PF Chang’s restaurant but without all the hoopla and waiting to get a table.

Asparagus with Buckwheat Noodles
(serves 4)

    12 ounces of buckwheat (soba) noodles
    1 tablespoon sesame oil
    1 cup, shallots or red onion, cut into matchstick length thin strips
    2 cups, fresh asparagus, cut into matchstick length pieces
    2 cups carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
    2 cups unripe, green papaya, cut into thin matchsticks
    1 cup, fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
    1/2 cup, roasted pistachios or peanuts
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    For the sweet-sour peanut sauce:
    1/4 cup, roasted, unsalted peanuts
    2 teaspoons, chilli flakes
    1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
    1 tablespoon, palm or cane jaggery pieces
    1/4 teaspoon, sea salt
    Add the above in a mixer and blend to creamy, smooth sauce.

1. Cook the buckwheat noodles according to the instructions on the package, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

2. Heat sesame oil in a wok or wide pan until hot. Add onions, asparagus, carrot and green papaya. Saute for 10 minutes, turning frequently, until the vegetables are tender and browned.

3. Add the sweet and sour peanut sauce to roasted vegetables. Sprinkle salt and quarter cup of water. Simmer on low heat for five minutes.

4. Toss in the buckwheat noodles and stir coat them in the sauce. Heat through for two minutes and then spoon into individual serving bowls. Sprinkle cilantro, pistachio and little bit lemon juice on top and serve immediately.

Asparagus with Soba Noodles
Asparagus with Buckwheat Noodles ~ Under Spring Sunshine

Variation: Use whole-wheat or rice noodles instead of buckwheat noodles, if you wish.

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