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a different kind of string theory

Category Archives: Gardening

One of the great things about growing up in the 1900 House is that you usually know what to do with excess fruit and vegetables. Too many radishes? Pickle those suckers. Too many strawberries, about to go off all at once like little moldy bombs?

My strawberries were riper than these cyberberries.


I’d made strawberry jam years ago, and it ended up tasting kind of raisiny (Once I tried making grape jam, and it was DISGUSTINGly raisiny. Some things you should leaved to Welch’s, it seems), so this time I hunted around on the interwebz for a different recipe. I used this one from Ina Garten, but you know me. I can’t follow a straight recipe to save my life. Well, I can, but I don’t. This is why you are getting this post: I want to remember what I did, because it came out spectacularly good. If I do say so myself.

In a pot, boil 2 cups of sugar and the juice and zest of a lemon. (I used a regular Eureka lemon, but it was huge. And I need to invest in a real zester, because mine is really just a cheese grater, and my zest is more of a sludgy paste.) Boil for 10 minutes. So far, I’ve followed the recipe.

While the sugar is boiling, wash, hull and halve the strawberries in question.

Don’t use moldy ones, or very overripe ones. The recipe calls for two pints, but in the heat of the moment, I totally forgot to measure. I think it was roughly that, though. If you wanted to get persnickety about it, you would measure the prepared fruit and then put the same weight of sugar– but I actually like conserves more than jam, so I was playing fast and loose with measurements.

Then crush the berries and add them to the sugar. I used my hands, and it was a very hedonistic experience. I recommend it. Boil gently until the jam gels when you dribble it onto a frozen plate (an Ina Garten tip, and what a good idea). I was doing other things (multitasking ftw!) but I think it took about a half hour.

I didn’t boil my jars, because it doesn’t make a whole lot of jam, and I knew I’d be eating it right away in my morning yogurt. In the bottom of each jar (and here is where I think I’m a genius!) I sprinkled a couple of pinches of lavender and dropped a centimeter of vanilla bean that I’d whacked with a cleaver. Then I poured the very slightly cooled jam/conserves into the jars, sealed them up, and stuck them in the refrigerator.

This morning, I tried the conserves with plain yogurt and some muesli, and I may have had a religious experience. Click the link, seriously.


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On Monday, L. and I went to H & E Nursery. We had some time to kill after dropping off The Babyhead and before Brahma Bull opened up, and we’d left Barnes and Noble too early because there was a creepy guy, creeping me out. Really we just went to the nursery to walk about and in the back of my mind, I vaguely wanted some Irish Moss to put near our redwood tree. Our back yard has a lot of shade and is a little on the dark and dank side, and moss is pretty.

I went a little crazy, because it was a gorgeously springtime in Fresno kind of day. We checked out everything, every rose, every fruit tree, everything. Every koi. As I wondered aloud to L., “I wonder if you can eat koi?” two large specimens gave us dirty looks and swam away. Apparently, koi have no sense of humor. I wouldn’t really eat them. After all, we were going to Brahma Bull.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I got the moss, alright, but I also got a lilac tree, a big bag of potting soil (L. laughed when I said we didn’t have a lot of dirt. But we don’t!), and a spade. Like I couldn’t use a spoon or a shovel, but I was on a roll.

What I really fell in love with, though, was this.

Flowering Quince

I mean, come on. So I’ll be making a trip back to H&E in the very near future. I’m not sure if I’ll get the light pink and very Japanese looking one, or a darker one, like what my mom has. They do really well in Fresno. My mom’s grows like a weed, and I suppose I could probably take a cutting, but I don’t feel like babying a little stick. I want to plant a big glorious flowering thing into the ground. Gosh, how American.