Spring Gardening Leads To DIY Gifts

Betty's Garden Statue graciously and steadfastly adorns our herb & vegetable garden…this time with "volunteer" flowers popping up

Betty’s Garden Statue graciously and steadfastly adorns our herb & vegetable garden…”volunteer” flowers are popping up – newly planted heirloom tomatoes are in the back bed…red onions, blueberries, Italian parsley and a new petite Myer Lemon Tree are planted in the bed behind our lady with vessel statue.

The whole family comes to our yard for Easter…it’s been happening here for over 25 years.  Usually there is an egg hunt, then our traditional Easter dinner, starting and ending with family favorite Italian dishes.  Two to four weeks out, I begin getting the yard in shape for the onslaught of guests and egg hunters.  I lucked out with the weather last week and not only got my heirloom tomatoes (seven varieties) and herbs in, but also trimmed back several small trees, bushes, and generally spruced up the lily garden etc etc etc…I just love this time of year.  Below is a photo journal of my two days working in the backyard.

This weekend's herb planting...

This weekend’s herb planting…three French lavenders and a little Italian oregano and parsley to fill in as the lavender grows in pots on our courtyard patio…the fragrance is light and lovely  – Below are the beds with tomatoes and three basil plants…sweet basil, Italian basil, and a new one called blue basil (looks a lot like a small Thai basil leaf )…these various tomatoes and basils are staged for some incredible summer caprese salads…along w/ my gorgeous chives and thyme.

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As I was whacking away at my bay laurel tree (inherited from my Mom’s backyard over 13 years ago), I felt badly about throwing the cut branches into the refuse bin…there were a lot of wonderful bay leaves going to waste…so I decided to dry some and bottle them as gifts for family and friends…the kids may get candy; however, the adults will go home with dried laurel bay leaves 🙂    Excellent in flavoring your sauces, soups, and many braised dishes.

Pruned Bay Laurel Tree…hmmm, what to do with all the leaves and cut branches…clean them, dry them, and bottle them… (disclosure:  the correct wording should be "Bay Laurel (not Laurel Bay as I have on this one label)…My sister caught the error on the first one but I am a bit lazy today and didn't reshoot the photo… :-(  ) These will be gifts for our Easter guests as I had lots of leaves…I even got to use this raffia that my good friend Panini Girl gave me…thank you Panini Girl :-)

Pruned Bay Laurel Tree…hmmm, “what to do with all the leaves and cut branches”… I decided to clean them, dry them, and bottle them… (disclosure: the correct wording should be “Bay Laurel (not Laurel Bay as I have on this one label)…My sister caught the error on the first one but I am a bit lazy today and didn’t reshoot the photo… 🙁 )
These will be gifts for our Easter guests as I had lots of leaves…I used raffia that my good friend Panini Girl gave me…thank you Panini Girl 🙂

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This morning, I enjoyed my cup of tea while perusing the overnight plant growth.  I was dismayed to see a bit of chewed up leaves on my basil, the good news is that I planted plenty of basil…oh well, I don’t mind sharing a little bit.

 

Callas, Clivias, Cabbage Roses… and Oops, Renegade Mint Too

Spring has certainly made its presence known in our backyard.  I love this time of year.  Our yard has literally sprung to life.  We wake each morning to a cacophony of singing birds, scurrying lizards, and buds breaking out onto still bare branches.

When I walk down our slope, below our deck, I am delighted to see the stunning orange trumpet flowers on the clivia plants that were a long ago gift (and transplant) from my mom (Betty’s) yard.  These, along with the giant white cala lilies she sent home with me some 20 years ago as dirty bulbs loosely wrapped in newspaper, bring a smile to me each year they spring back to life.  Mom loved her garden and shared her plants with whoever asked.  There are many clivia and cala lily plants around our area that came from her yard.

Clivias in bloom…from the lily family…these beauties are transplants from Mom's (Betty's) garden about 20 years ago.  They love it under our deck…lots of shade with a bit of sunlight

Clivias in bloom…from the lily family…these beauties are transplants from Mom’s (Betty’s) garden about 20 years ago. They love it under our deck…lots of shade with a bit of sunlight

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cli·vi·a
ˈklīvēə,ˈklivēə
  1. a southern African plant of the lily family, with dark green, straplike leaves and trumpet-shaped orange, red, or yellow flowers.
    The calla lilies are so gracious.
    Cala Lily…such grace

 

 

Pictured below, this stunning cabbage rose plant…a centerpiece in the English garden part of my yard was a lovely gift from my sister – when her husband was redoing their yard, this rose didn’t fit into his scheme…lucky me 🙂

Lots of buds ready to burst on this huge cabbage rose plant

Lots of buds ready to burst on this huge cabbage rose plant

Cabbage rose…a gift from my sister's yard…it loves its new home.

Cabbage rose…a gift from my sister’s yard…it loves its new home.

Then there is my renegade mint…you may know that it is a weed…and that you should plant it in a pot (keep it contained).  Well, I did all that; however, my pot sits on the ground (on soil) in my herb garden, and eventually, it escaped via watering through the drain hole and voila…mint everywhere in our yard below our herb garden…oh well, guess I will be “weeding” mint for awhile…at least it is pretty and smells good 🙂

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Renegade mint gone wild into the yard (downslope)…I really did start it out in a pot…but it escaped through the pot's drain hole and is inserting itself EVERYWHERE in the garden below - it's weeding time I guess

Renegade mint gone wild into the yard (downslope)…I really did start it out in a pot…but it escaped through the pot’s drain hole and is inserting itself EVERYWHERE in the garden below – it’s weeding time I guess

Soon, it will be warm enough for me to enjoy a book and cup of tea while sitting on this small swing, under our wisteria plant,  listening to the birds and watching our mission fig tree pop out hundreds of jewels. A great spot for tea.

Time to get the cushion on my swing, under our climbing wisteria (also a bit "gone wild"…but gorgeous)

Time to get the cushion on my swing which sits under our climbing wisteria (also a bit “gone wild”…but gorgeous)

Truly FRESH Herbal Infusions…Made Tableside Just For You!

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side -- to your liking ---

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side — to your liking —

 

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

IMG_0633One of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had was at The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento.  I’ll share more about the meal in a future post – Dinner was an “event” which included a unique tea service where we were offered a menu of special blends featuring a basket of fresh herbs.

As the chefs plated the dessert course, we ordered our hot beverages.   I’d never seen anything like this…fresh herbs, clipped to order and steeped at your place setting.

I opted for their green tea…but next time will go for the herbal infusion.

Tetsubin iron teapot service at The Kitchen...

Tetsubin iron teapot service at The Kitchen…

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The French Laundry’s Winter Garden…Radishes Anyone?

Food trends fascinate me.  A few years ago, the highly acclaimed baker, Nancy Silverton (and co-owner of the Pizzeria Mozza Restaurants) put Butterscotch Budino on her menu…she got rave reviews for this tasty pudding…and all of a sudden we started seeing budino’s and butterscotch on dessert menus everywhere we went.  Beets is another item that has made the rounds on menus –  various varieties,  colors, sizes, & cooking methods  are offered as the golden or red beet may be pickled, smoked, roasted, or served raw… along with their leaves too.

When in Napa Valley, I love to walk  to The French Laundry (TFL) gardens in Yountville…located directly across the street from Thomas Keller’s famed restaurant.  After visiting this winter…I predict the humble radish to be the food trend we see adorning plates everywhere…from bulb to leaf. The gorgeous TFL gardens were prolific with baby broccoli, chives, nantes carrots and more…but the radishes really caught my attention…while I was not familiar with most of these varieties, I can see why TFL likes them…they offer a crisp texture, pungent, peppery flavor and plenty of color lending themselves to be a valued addition to almost any plate.

The French Laundry Winter Garden…featuring…the radish…a cool season vegetable that is easy to grow.  Takes three weeks to harvest.

The French Laundry Restaurant…unassuming, easy to drive by and miss

The French Laundry Restaurant…unassuming, easy to drive by and miss

 

TFL Garden hothouse…radishes anyone?

A stunningly beautiful February morning at TFL Gardens and hothouse…radishes — baby carrots — baby lettuces — the veg is honored here

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Nutritional information about the radish … One cup is just 19 calories, 4 grams of carb., 29% of your recommended daily vitamin C and 7% fiber…there are also several minerals, including potassium.

So, what’s your radish?  My preference is to enjoy them thinly sliced or julienned over a fresh salad…my husband can sit and eat several whole ones as a snack.  However you choose, using them offers a little more depth to a dish…either in texture, crunch, color, and that bit of peppery flavor.

Three types of radishes…tender and peppery and crunchy

Three types of radishes…tender and peppery and crunchy

A Year In Review…Well, Half Of It Anyway :-)

The past month has been a bit crazy …  I suppose it has been for most of you; however, I complicated things by throwing in a couple vacations, as well as, caught some kind of cold / virus that seems to want to fake me out…it comes and goes…then comes back just when I think I am better.  So…I got a little behind on my writing, but I think I am BACK now 🙂

2013 is gone.  While I don’t want to spend much time looking back, it was a year of interesting experiences inspired by tea for me.  I moved from my Tea With Betty blog to Eat Be Tea so I can expand the writing and experiences to include more about what I love…small bites of foods, paired with tea, experienced in numerous ways in various settings that often changes one’s life…one cup at a time, one bite at a time, one conversation at a time, one moment of reflection while waiting for the steep to finish.

I say goodbye to 2013 with this brief journey back.  I was blessed to have so many wonderful experiences over tea and food that I’ve had to break this into two posts…Below are photos for the first half 2013 of tea and food experiences that inspired and brought me joy –  beginning  with tea with my family at the Mission Inn, Riverside, Ca. last January 2…and ending with savoring a cup of Marriage Freres Darjeeling up in the Napa Valley while relaxing with a book.  In between, there were several garden tours that motivated us to redo our herb and vegetable beds (thanks to my sister’s invites and my husband’s hard work) and additional tea time items that touched me.

January - June 2013  Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

January – June 2013
Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

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Caption list:

1. Teatime at The Mission Inn with two darling little boys 🙂

2. Gonfu tea service…a favorite of mine enjoyed at several locations

3. Kusmi teas…a gift from my sister-in-law from their trip to France, their chocolate tea is as good as eating a piece of quality chocolate…seriously

4. Chocolates and confectionery my daughter and I made while at an Eat Street Culinary class with Chef Katie Averill in Anaheim…can’t believe we made these, from scratch.

5. Surfas opens in Costa Mesa, Ca…yay…lots of food and cooking supplies

6, 7, 8, 9. Napa Valley in February…the mustard in bloom as a cover crop for the grapevines, tea items at Dean & Deluca fine food purveyors…and they carried one of my favorite tea pots, featured on the cover of my tea book…the Betty pot and The French Laundry garden hot house.

10. Japanese tea house located in the bucolic Descanso Gardens L.A.

11. My Life Is Good “Tea Shirt”…a gift from my best friend.

12, 13, 14  Gorgeous tea foods prepared with the significant help from our friend Clive (the 5 layered tea sandwich he used to make at the Savoy, London and stunning lemon meringue tarts prepared by my niece Sammycakes. Also, my petite favorite biscuit scones.

15. Teapot with tea warmer at our dear friend Eugenie’s.

16. We discover pastry chef Kevin Montoya…owner of Carley Cakes. yum.

17 – 23. Out of the blue…I get asked to do a tea tasting for 100 and launch Eat Be Tea at this time….more Tea With Betty books are ordered, tables set in this gorgeous, rustic outdoor setting in the historic area of  San Juan Capistrano – my husband and Chef Kevin plate the food for the pairing with several organic teas from Mighty Leaf.

24.  Chef Kevin decides to name my biscuit scone…the Jones Scone and offer it in his pastry case with my fragrant and flavorful vanilla, cinnamon butter…at Hidden House Cafe on Los Rios Street in SJC.

Finally, we are up to June…back in Napa at the culinary institute where they claim “food is life”…so true…

Finally, I sit down to a fragrant darjeeling packaged in a darling cotton sack.

Happy New Year! Relax and drink tea!

 

 

The Charleston Tea Plantation…

America’s only working, commercial tea farm is located in Charleston, South Carolina on historic Wadmalaw Island in the Lowcountry.  We visited last month…170 acres of tea plants (camellia sinensis)…including a lovely shop and factory tour.

Two Leaves & A Bud...the camellia sinensis plant (tea)

Two Leaves & A Bud…the camellia sinensis plant (where all tea comes from)

 

Charleston Tea Plantation - America's only working tea garden

Charleston Tea Plantation – America’s only working tea garden

Welcome to America's Tea Garden

Welcome to America’s Tea Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under beautiful  grand oaks lies the factory, gift shop and tour...comfy rocker line the porch

Under beautiful grand oaks lies the factory, gift shop and tour…comfy rockers line the porch and if you chose to, a trolley took you through the fields.

IMG_8398 IMG_8402Here we are in the tea fields. I am happy there is a tea plantation in the U.S. as I don't think I'll ever go the 9,000 miles to see fields in Sri Lanka :-)

Here we are in the tea fields. I am happy there is a tea plantation in the U.S. as I don’t think I’ll ever go the 9,000 miles to see fields in Sri Lanka 🙂

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It was a fun experience to see this plantation. While fine teas are grown in higher altitudes in China, Japan, Sri Lanka, & India…and great teas are hand picked, many from renowned old estates,this American Classic Tea was good iced.   Most restaurants in Charleston offered this American Classic tea. Below are photos from their self-guided factory tour.  The gift shop had a great feel and the samples were prevalent.  Lots of visitors enjoyed the setting.The gift shop is spacious with a bar that offers iced and hot teas...the service and counters are beautiful...

The gift shop is spacious with a bar that offers iced and hot teas…the service and counters are beautiful…

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The making of tea...leaves are machine picked at this farm, withered, cut, dried...the entire place smells like wheat grass ...very green, nice, almost sweet.  Founder William Barclay Hall...now owned by Bigelow

The making of tea…leaves are machine picked at this farm, withered, cut, dried…the entire place smells like wheat grass …very green, nice, almost sweet. Founder William Barclay Hall…now owned by Bigelow

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