Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Guerrilla Gardening

I wish I could be this cool.

loynes after photo5
Keep up the amazing work, wherever you are!

Island Limeade

I won't lie to you: Hawaii is hot. Even when you lie completely still at night and have the fan going on full blast and are wearing as little clothing as you can get away with, you still sweat and steam. The coolest time of day, I imagine, is between 4 and 8 o'clock in the morning, which, of course, we never experienced in our two weeks on Kauai. Instead, we spent the hottest part of the day trying to escape the sun. We did our cooking after sundown, and finished the day by sitting in the dark with the fans going while we sipped cool, rummy drinks. 

On a recommendation from our library-loan guidebook, we went to a Guava Plantation, hoping to pick fresh guavas right off the trees. Unfortunately, the plantation had been shut down for a few years, and was undergoing renovations to become an organic farm and restaurant. 

We approached one of the guys doing some painting on what looked like the main building and got our info from him. "Sure, take a look around if you like," he said, pointing us in the direction of the 'Nature Walk'. "And if you find any fruit, just help yourself!" 

Despite taking a very buggy, itchy, and sun-beaten walk through the old plantation, we managed to collect a few stunted guavas, a jackfruit that we ended up leaving on the ground because no one knew how or dared to open it, and a big pile of beautiful limes. They turned out to be incredibly juicy. Limeade was definitely in order. 

Our limeade turned out more brown than green, mostly because of the cane sugar I used to sweeten it. That, and store-bought limeade is probably dyed green. But at the end of a hot day, it was the perfect accompaniment to this sunset. 

Island Limeade
*note: if you don't have enough limes to make a full cup, you can top it up with lemons, using up to a 1/3 cup of lemon juice

1 cup of lime juice, strained for seeds
1 cup of cane sugar
1 cup + 4 cups cold water (or to taste)
lime slices or mint/basil leaves, for garnishing

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of water to boiling. Stir in the cup of cane sugar, until it is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. 

(If you like, you can peel the zest off of your limes prior to juicing them, and throw those into the pot of water and sugar. It adds a little bit more flavor. Use a vegetable peeler or a small paring knife to do this so the zest stays in strips. Be sure not to boil the zest or it will get bitter. Remove the strips of zest before adding the sugar syrup to the limeade.) 

Meanwhile, juice the limes (and/or lemons) into a measuring cup. Using a spoon or your cupped hand as a make-shift strainer, get rid of all the seeds. I prefer to leave the pulp in, because it looks and tastes more real. 

In a large glass pitcher, combine the strained lime juice, the cooled sugar syrup, and the cold water, and give it a stir or two. Taste to test for balance of citrusy zing and sweetness, and add more water if necessary. Make sure it is really and truly chilled before serving. Garnish with a slice of lime or a sprig of mint. 

Friday, June 19, 2009

a bowl of vegetables... or the gardener?

Going away for vacation for two weeks in the middle of June is a bad idea when you are a gardener. Especially when those two weeks happen to be a hot spell that make your peas, lettuce, basil, and tomatoes overtake everything else in your garden. Especially when your peas are supposed to grow to 8 or 9 feet tall and you haven't put up anything for them to climb on yet! 

This first year of my gardening life has been a steep learning curve. Thankfully, Rodale's Encyclopedia to Organic Gardening and my friend Bob at The Natural Gardener have answered many of my crazy, first-year gardener questions. And now, I am learning that when you plant all of your seeds, you end up with a crowded, overgrown, and high-maintenance garden. I guess I'll live and learn? That is, if my tomatoes and peas live to produce... well, tomatoes and peas. 

The best part, though, of having an overgrown garden, is that you can start harvesting even the smallest arugula leaves and the earliest snap peas and the slightly-not-ripe-yet cucumbers, knowing that when the rest of it comes ripe, there will be plenty to go around! So, in July and August I will have an abundance of vegetables in my proverbial bowl, like the picture on the left. And, I will probably feel much like the fellow on the right - vegetables turned upside down, with a tin bowl on my head. 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

the food of the garden island

We have been on Kauai now for almost two weeks, and we have been having so much fun I haven't had time to post! Our friends M. and L. from Australia met us 'halfway' for a vacation and reunion. We spent our first week on the North shore, and moved to the South shore at the beginning of this week. Apparently, locals from both sides are fiercely dedicated to their side of the island. Northern locals say, "Oh, don't go south, it never rains there," and southern locals say, "Don't go north, you'll always get wet!"

Personally, I loved the North Shore. We stayed in Princeville, but spent most of our time in and around Hanalei, an irrevocably laid-back surfer town. The main strip of town is easily walkable, with cute shops that managed to be only slightly touristy, because they were so rustic and authentic. On our first day, though, I got a taste of what life in Hanalei might be like... there are weekly farmers' markets all over the island, and we managed to roll into the Hanalei market on the Waipa Ranch just as the gates opened. I was so enthralled I completely forgot to take a photo of the place, but here is some of the beauty we picked up there: 

Fresh pineapple, papayas, limes, lemons, lychee, and apple bananas (the sweet tart kind) all freshly picked that day. We also got lettuce, basil, green onions, tomatoes, red peppers, fresh lemonade, and coffee blossom honey (sooo dark and intense). 

However, we had our priorities straight... even before thinking about the Farmer's Market, we picked up a huge plate of coconut shrimp:

And then topped it off with fried ice cream, lovingly prepared in what our side-of-the-road-van-chef guy called "The Big Hawaiian". 

It was the perfect way to kick off our visit to Kauai.