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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    Spotted recently via our friends at Sunset Magazine: a list of must-have hardy grasses to plant now. Why? They're drought resistant, prevent erosion, and provide year round color and texture in a garden. Here are five of our favorites:

    Above: Oryzopsis hymenoides (common name: Indian Rice Grass), a hardy North American native, re-seeds itself and is an important food source for birds and other wildlife, who eat its seeds. A pound of seeds is $10.50 from Plants of the Southwest. Photograph by Reno Mogen David via Flickr.

    Above: Here's a planting scheme that illustrates how easily the low, mounded form of mist-colored Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue' (C) complements other gray-leafed and purple flowering plants, such as Lamb's Ear (L) and Geranium Johnson's Blue (R). Photograph via A2ZMom. A compact, blue grass, 'Elijah Blue' is $8.95 per plant from Bluestone Perennials.

    Above: To see how planting large swaths of grasses can stabilize a steep hillside, see "The Landscape Architect is In: Drought Tolerant, Deer Resistant, and on a Budget in Berkeley."

    Above: New Zealand Wind Grass (Anemanthele lessoniana) is a hardy grass that tolerates sun or shade and provides a winter food source for birds. A plant in a 4-inch pot is $6.95 from Annie's Annuals. Photograph by Scott Weber via Flickr.

    Above: Libertia peregrinans, an iris from New Zealand, has a strikingly variegated leaf and a small white flower. It's $10 per plant from Far Reaches Farm. Photograph via Duane's Garden.

    Above: Pennisetum orientale 'Tall Tails' is one of 80 or so species of fountain grass; in late summer, this compact grass sprouts fuzzy pink blooms. It's $8.95 per plant from Plant Delights. Photograph via Digging Dog.

    Above: Muhlenbergia rigens (Deergrass) is a California native that grows as tall as five feet. It's $7.95 per plant from Bluestone Perennials. Photograph by Anthony Mendoza via Flickr.

    Above: In Los Angeles, Grow Outdoor Design created a walkway bordered by gravel and decomposed granite, which makes a nice crunchy sound—and feels good—underfoot. Alongside the path grows small cape rush (Chondropetalum tectorum) and also deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens). Image via Grow Outdoor Design.

    N.B. This is an update of a post that originally published on November 6, 2012.

    To see how superstar landscape architect Piet Oudolf created dreamy drifts of grasses at home, adjacent to his farmhouse in the Netherlands, see "Steal This Look: Piet Oudolf's Private Garden."

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    Recently one sunlit morning I woke early and headed to the rural Chiles Valley that runs parallel to its more illustrious Napa Valley neighbor. I was headed to Storm Olive Ranch to see the 2013 olives being harvested for Grove 45, the label that Bonnie Storm and Nena Talcott started in 2010. Storm, who had imported bare root trees from Tuscany in the '90s and was somewhat of a pioneer in reenergizing the olive oil industry in the Napa Valley, was on the verge of retiring from the olive oil business when her friend Talcott —who years earlier had taken cuttings from the trees to create her own grove over the years—suggested they go into business. With nothing to lose, the pair, both post divorce, decided to launch Grove 45. They produced 60 cases from their first harvest in 2010. They sold it to a local supermarket where expert reviews from an olive oil expert caused a buzz, and the pair have never looked back. Each year Grove 45 sells out of all their cases (this crop is already accounted for), but you can still find it in some local speciality food stores. 

    Photography by Mimi Giboin.

    Grove 45 Olive Ranch ; Gardenista

    Above: The entrance to Storm Olive Ranch.   

    Grove 45 Olive trees l Gardenista

    Above: A grove of olives at Storm Ranch that features four typical Tuscan blends: Pendolino, Maurino, Leccino, Frantoio. Sicilian Nocellara del Belice trees were planted in the front to "tone down the hotness of the Tuscans," Storm explains.

    Black olives Grove 45 ; Gardenista

    Above: Black olives indicate ripeness (with green being not ripe). Talcott explains "Ideally we pick when 60 percent are black and 40 percent are green and before any frost has set in.  We can get an early freeze here, but this year it's a beautiful harvest."

    Grove 45 olive harvest l Gardenista

    Above: To prepare for the harvest, large cloths and tarpaulins are placed on the ground to gather the olives after they have fallen.

    Grove 45 olive harvest l Gardenista

    Above: Storm explains, "We start at dawn and use these pneumatic combs from Italy. They are new this year, but do much less damage to the trees than the limb shakers we were using.  The guys had to do hand milling, but this is more gentle and thorough than shaking and whacking the trees."

    Grove 45 olive harvest l Gardenista

    Above: Once gathered, the olives are poured into large bins where the leaves are blown off. Olives are hauled off to the press and milled within 24 hours of harvesting.

    Grove 45 olive harvest ; Gardenista

    Above: A third of the olives will be stone pressed (more if there is a higher ratio of green olives, which are more bitter than the ripened black ones). Talcott says, "The stone milling helps produce a softer oil as it exposes the olives to oxygen longer and makes for a milder flavor." 

    Grove 45 olive harvest

    Above: A view looking down onto one of the groves at Storm Ranch.

    If you can't quite afford your own grove, Michelle explains how to get your own Potted Olive Tree.

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    On my recent visit to Storm Olive Ranch where owners Bonnie Storm and Nena Talcott make their blend of Grove 45 extra virgin olive oil, I found myself wondering how one picks a good olive oil. Luckily Bonnie and Nena were happy to educate me. Read on for their advice:

    Grove 45 Olive Oil

    Above: Grove 45 Olive Oil at Murray Cheese.

    Oil is very much like wine with lots of different varieties, and depends upon individual tastes and preference. The best way to discover what you like is to taste it. Sitting in Bonnie's kitchen, Nena poured a small amount of olive oil into a small shot glass and with one hand had me cover the top while the other cupped the bottom to warm it. I swilled it around a bit whlle Nena explained that "tasting oil all happens in the nose, but you feel the oil in your mouth."

    She then counseled me to "take a tiny sip, swill it and move it around the tongue and coat the inside of the mouth. Breathe out through the nose to get the retronasals, then move air through the sinuses. Suck in air from the sides to help the aromatics move. You'll find fruit in the front, bitter on the sides, and pepper and pungency when you swallow." I was tasting oil from olives that had been picked and pressed the prior day, and it tasted spicy but also green and apple-like sweet; in short, delicious. 

    Grove 45 Olive oil

    Above: Grove 45 uses aluminum containers with pewter labels for the oils.

    At $43 a can, Grove 45 is not cheap. But as Bonnie points out, "Our oil should be used as finishing oil for salads or as a condiment oil." Here's what else they had to say on the topic:

    • Avoid larger containers of oil. Buy small amounts of fresh oil and use quickly. After it comes in contact with oxygen, it quickly deteriorates. In short, use, use, use. 
    • Keep your oil in dark containers away from the sun; the darker the container the better (or in their case aluminum).
    • Don't store next to the stove (too hot).
    • Never put oil in the refrigerator (or worse still, the freezer). 
    • Buy extra virgin olive oil, which usually signifies that it has been pressed immediately after harvesting.
    • "Cold pressed" means nothing. None of it is cold pressed; even stone milling creates heat. 
    • On anything you eat with butter, substitute oil.

    Black olives Grove 45 ; Gardenista

    Above: Olives from the 2013 harvest.

    Bonnie and Nena's favorite way to use their oll? Air-popped popcorn with Grove 45 and truffle salt. "This way," Nena tells us, "the pepperiness really comes through the popcorn." 

    If you are looking for wine tasting tips, check out our prior post on Identifying Floral Notes.

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    Thanksgiving is fast approaching, but you still have plenty of time to plan your recipes and tablescapes—for now. Get a move on with inspiration from our Photo Gallery—more than 3,000 images of gardens, plants, floral arrangements, and more. Here, six of our favorite Thanksgiving picks:

    Remodelista and Schoolhouse Electric Autumn Thanksgiving Dinner, Gardenista

    Above: An autumnal arrangement by Anna Mara Flowers, from a dinner held last fall at Schoolhouse Electric in Portland, OR. See more of the gorgeous feast in Steal This Look: A Fall Dinner with Friends, and browse our gallery for more Floral Arrangements

    Rustic Thanksgiving Table Setting, Gardenista

    Above: I love the idea of ferns and driftwood on the Thanksgiving table, like this one photographed by Beth Kirby of Local Milk. Smitten with the fern? Browse images of Ferns in our gallery.

    Thanksgiving Table with Persimmons, in Partnership with The Home Depot, Gardenista

    Above: This year, in partnership with The Home Depot, Michelle created this Thanksgiving table setting using hardware-store standards, plus persimmons and bay leaves. Plan your own using Steal This Look: An Easy and Elegant Thanksgiving Tabletop from the Garden, and browse 98 images of Tablescapes in our gallery.

    Baked Celeriac Gratin Thanksgiving Recipe, Gardenista

    Above: Take on a new vegetable this Thanksgiving, and cover it with cream and cheese. Find the recipe in Baking Bulbs: Celeriac Gratin with Thyme and Gruyere. If you're still searching for recipes for the big day, browse all of our Garden-to-Table Recipes on Gardenista. 

    Rustic Thanksgiving Table Setting, Gardenista

    Above: Erin created this nontraditional Thanksgiving tablescape using cupboard standards and grocery-store flowers. Be inspired to create your own; see A Thanksgiving Tabletop in White, Green, and Indigo and browse our gallery by color: White, Blue, and Green

    Mulled Apple Cider with Apples and Oranges, Gardenista

    Above: To me, nothing smells more like Thanksgiving than mulled apple cider. Olivia Rae James makes hers with a secret ingredient. (Hint: It's booze.) Find the recipe in DIY: Mulled Apple Cider, With a Secret Ingredient. For more inspiration, browse images of Drinks & Cocktails in our gallery. 

    Have garden-inspired Thanksgiving plans of your own to share? Follow @gardenista_sourcebook on Instagram and tag your photos with the hashtag #gardenistathanksgiving.

    For two fun Thanksgiving projects, see DIY: Black Walnut Tie-Dye Napkins and DIY Outdoor Planter: Rich Fall Hues

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    Are you planning a Thanksgiving menu? This week we'll be suggesting a few of the feast-worthy garden-to-table recipes from the past year:

    It's not exactly news-worthy that I'm a 20-something gardeny-type from Brooklyn who loves kale. But let's forgive the cliché and sail over to the important part of the story: kale is delicious. Especially when it's raw. While Kristen Beddard has been pounding the pavement crusading for kale in Paris, we've been binging on it in Brooklyn. It's hard to find a restaurant in this borough without a kale salad on the menu. And in my tiny apartment kitchen, raw kale salads figure into the dinner lineup at least once weekly.

    But beyond being ridiculously delicious, kale salads are also delightfully portable. As far as fall picnic fare goes, I don't think you can do better. Where regular old lettuce would wilt into a slimy mess, kale positively shines given a bit of time to marinate. 

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    raw kale salad with apples and almonds

    In a season where sitting on a wool picnic blanket is actually tolerable, consider this an entreaty to pack a picnic and enjoy some quality autumnal outdoors time. To help you along, a recipe for my favorite salad du jour and some tips for becoming a kale enthusiast (Are you reading this, mes amis?):

    raw kale salad with apples and almonds

    Above: Of all the varieties, I prefer tuscan kale—also known as dinosaur or lacinato—most. Its rich dark leaves exude healthfulness without being off-putting. Promis.

    raw kale salad with apples and almonds

    Above: Before I wash my kale, I strip the leaves off the sturdy center ribs. I suggest using your hands for this step. With a semi-tight grip on the bottom of the rib, you can run your hands down the length of the rib and take the flesh leaves off easily. Once I've stripped the leaves from the ribs, I layer them in a stack and then roll them up to make cutting the leaves into thin ribbons more easy.

    raw kale salad with apples and almonds

    Above: The key to proper raw kale enjoyment is a good massage. No, not for you, for the kale. First, give the chopped leaves a bath in cold tap water. When the leaves are submerged in water, stick your hands in there and give a good swish, squeezing the cut kale in your fists. Rinse and spin dry. As with humans, a good massage can help take away any lingering bitterness or bite.

    raw kale salad with apples and almonds

    Above: I like salads with a good crunch, and for this one I chose roasted almonds that I chopped roughly. Toasted pine nuts would also be lovely in this salad. In either case, the more the merrier. 

    raw kale salad with apples and almonds

    Above: A nice hard cheese makes a raw kale salad come to life. I alternate between grana padano and parmesan reggiano. If you're in the mood for something softer, you might choose a ricotta salata. The saltier, the better.

    raw kale salad with apples and almonds

    Above: I tend not to be too much of an olive oil snob, but this Koroneiki Extra Virgin Olive Oil sold through my neighborhood cheese shop, Stinky Brooklyn, is delicious and affordable at $15 per liter. Brooklyn start-up Qupia collaborates directly with farms and producers in Greece to import this "everyday elixir."

    raw kale salad with apples and almonds

    Above: My salad packed and ready to go in an Enamelware Lunch Container from Kaufmann Mercantile, $48.95. Enjoy with a hunk of crusty bread and an extra honey crisp, for good measure.

    raw kale salad with apples and almonds

    Above: Packed into a to-go container, this salad is the perfect thing to take along wherever your garden travels take you. So, where will you go? To the swamp? Or the prison?

    Raw Kale Salad with Apples and Almonds


    • 1 bunch tuscan kale, ribs removed, sliced into thin, short ribbons
    • 1 honey crisp apple, chopped
    • 1/2 cup roasted almonds, chopped
    • 1/2 cup grated grana padano (or similar aged cheese)
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • Juice of one lemon
    • Salt and pepper to taste


    Mix together kale, almonds, apple, and cheese. Toss with olive oil and lemon juice to taste (I used a ratio of about 2 tablespoons oil to 1 tablespoon lemon juice). Add salt and pepper to taste and an additional shave or ten of cheese. Enjoy.

    Would you like us to send you a new recipe every Friday? Subscribe to our Gardenista Daily email. For more of our favorite dinners, see our complete list of Garden-to-Table Recipes.

    N.B. This is an update of a post that originally published on September 27, 2013.

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    This is not just another book about how to grow as much of your own food as possible. In fact, the authors of The Beautiful Edible Garden think you may be trying too hard. Do you feel overwhelmed when your lettuce bolts, your apples rot on the ground, and your parsley goes to seed? If so, this is the book for you.

    Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner, garden designers and co-owners of Star Apple Edible + Fine Gardening in Berkeley, CA, wrote The Beautiful Edible Garden to try to persuade you to change your expectations. Not scale them back or give up on the whole food-growing endeavor, but...just relax.

    "A garden should be a really weird balance of planting the amount of food that actually works for your lifestyle—and of taking it slowly, so you don't burn out," says Bittner.

    We were so intrigued by the book's philosophy that we caught up with Bennett and Bittner recently and asked them to elaborate:

    Above: Photograph via Star Apple Edible Gardens.

    Forget about an Über raised-bed vegetable garden laid out in a precise grid across the better part of the backyard. That is for people who don't have jobs, kids, dogs, or a serious addiction to Homeland to indulge. You are too busy to devote ten hours a day to your crops. Instead, tuck in a few edible perennials—like rosemary, blueberries, asparagus—among the things you're already growing in your regular old garden. You'll have a harvest year after year.

    One trick is to interplant vegetables with ornamentals in the garden. Why? Well, for one thing, it's more stylish. After you harvest the food, the garden will still look good.

    Says Bennett: "Don't plant a garden with all annual vegetables or herbs, or else it will look really, really bad really quick."

    Adds Bittner: "Perennials will hang out a lot longer and will anchor the space."

    Above: Photograph via Star Apple Edible Gardens.

    Repeat plants throughout the garden to create a cohesive design, using different varieties of the same plant to create a "succession harvest."

    Says Bennett: "We like to use blueberries through garden, but different kinds of bushes: plant an early-harvest variety, a mid-harvest variety, and a late-harvest variety so you have a consistent supply."

    Says Bittner: "You don't want to be hit with everything in a four-week period; it's too much. Spread your harvest over the growing season.

    Above: Perennial herbs at home in a flower bed, via The Beautiful Edible Garden. Photograph by David Fenton.

    If you're just starting out, limit yourself to an herb garden—and limit the selection to a handful of perennial herbs that you use all the time to cook—and plant them in a spot that's convenient to the kitchen.

    Says Bittner: "Rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Start there, with classic culinary herbs that are easy to grow and need very little water. Whether you plant in the landscape or in a container, you want something that's just going to hang out there, doing its job, being evergreen, and holding the space."

    Says Bennett: "And plant them so they are useful. Right outside the back door, that's a plant you are going to pick from or snip more often because you can see it out the window and be reminded."

    Above: Espaliered fruit trees, via The Beautiful Edible Garden. Photograph by David Fenton.

    If you plant edible perennials, you don't have to beat yourself up if you don't get around to eating every last bit of your harvest. There's always next year.

    Says Bennett: "In addition to the edible perennials, add some plants pollinators like, like edible flowers."

    Says Bittner: "Pollinators love nasturtium. And yarrow—we call that the workhorse of an edible garden because you can use it for teas and it also brings in so many pollinators.

    Says Bennett: "We love agastasche and nigella."

    Says Bittner: "And cumin."

    Above: The Beautiful Edible Garden is $27.21 from Amazon.

    For more of our favorite gardening books, see Gardenista: Required Reading. See The Greatest Hits: Perennial Vegetables and start making your plans for next year.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published April 10, 2013.

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    At a time when most magazines printed on paper are regarded as passé and soon to be completely obsolete, there's a fresh take on an old kind of publication. Good Company is a print journal so meticulously designed that every page looks as if it should be hanging on a gallery wall.  It is a completely original bi-annual paean to food: cooking it, serving it, and even growing it.  

    Good Company was founded by two women who learned their trade and spent years creating main stream media. Debi Kogen is an award winning art director who has spent 15 years creating identities for businesses such as Target and Crate and Barrel. Bobbi Lin is a former editor and product developer at Martha Stewart Living.

    All photographs by Bobbi Lin except where noted.

    Good Company beets by Bobbi Lin via gardenista

    Kogen and Lin met at a photo shoot and, although Lin is in Brooklyn and Kogen is in Chicago, they decided to create Good Company together. As Kogen puts it, "We know that people are hungry not just for something stylish, but for a voice with substance and a positive message."  

    Good company, oranges by Jim franco via gardenista

    Above: Ecobag with oranges by Jim Franco.

    The goal of the magazine is to encourage, inspire, and empower home cooks. There are recipes, reviews on tools, and tips on how to entertain and not drive yourself crazy ("when people come first, memorable meals happen").

    Good Company gazpacho by Steven McDonald via gardenista

    Above: Gazpacho by Steven McDonald.

    With the help of photographers, writers, editors, and stylists who donated their time and talent, Kogen and Lin have produced two issues: "Roots" (winter 2013) and "Anchor" (summer 2013).  Now they are planning a third, "Dirt," to be published in March, 2014.  

    Good Company Dirt by Bobbi Lin via gardenista

    Above: An image from Good Company's next issue, "Dirt," which will be dedicated to urban farming and sustainable agriculture.  To finance the new issue they have turned to Kickstarter, the online fundraising website, in the hopes of collecting $40,000 by Dec. 11.

    good company, dirt chicken house by Bobbi Lin via gardenista

    Above: Chicken house from "Dirt."

    The two know that the magazine business is a competitive one and that it's possible they will not have enough newsstand sales or subscription sales to make a success of their venture.

    However, they are optimistic and believe in the quality of their publication, which is printed in the US with vegetable oil-based inks and wind-supported power.

    Good Company, Dirt, tomatoes by Burcu Avsar via gardenista

    Above: Preserved tomatoes by Burcu Avsar.

    Good Company yellow tomatoes by Bobbi Lin via gardenista

    Above: Fuzzy yellow tomatoes from Dirt by Bobbi Lin.

    Above: Farinata by Steven McDonald.

    Above: Tomatoes in oil by Burcu Avsar from Good Company.

    As Kogen puts it, "We work really hard to put together the most beautiful product we can in a sustainable and ethical way." If the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, they will be able to continue and we will be able to look forward to more delicious reading opportunities.

    For other print magazines we love see: Modern Farmer and Wilder

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    When I first set out as a Novice Gardener, I didn't have a single gardening tool save for an aged, crooked dandelion weeder I found buried in the bottom of my inherited window box. My tool-free approach didn't help my chances for success, and I learned over the course of a year that there would have been some helpful items to have around.

    Here, a few gift ideas to give the fledgling gardener the best shot at success, and at a lifetime of gardening:

    Joseph Bentley Hand Trowel, Gifts for Beginning Gardeners, Gardenista

    Above: Good-looking tools are more likely to be used. (Is this true? We think so.) We recommend the no-frills but beautiful Joseph Bentley Traditional Stainless Steel Hand Trowel; $14.99 from Amazon.

    Sophie Conran Gardening Shears, Gifts for Beginning Gardeners, Gardenista

    Above: Gardening shears are a lot gentler on plants than craft scissors. We're fond of this simple, compact design from UK designer Sophie Conran. The Secateurs are $45 from Amazon.

    Above: I seriously underestimated gardening gloves in my first year of gardening, and often sported scratched hands and dirt under my nails. Nix that possibility with Women's Leather Gauntlet Gardening Gloves; $39.50 from Duluth Trading Co. For men, we like the Golden Buckskin Gloves; $26.95 from Bear Wallow Glove Company. 

    Haws Traditional Watering Can in Red, Gifts for Beginning Gardeners, Gardenista

    Above: As a beginner, I had an "aha" moment when I realized there are real benefits to using a watering can over a pitcher. Speed your gardener's learning curve with an amply sized watering can with a sprinkling head. This one, from a company that's been making watering cans since 1886, ought to work well. The Haws Traditional Watering Can is also available in green; $69.95 from Williams-Sonoma.

    Copper Plant Markers from Terrain, Gifts for Beginning Gardeners, Gardenista

    Above: I still sometimes forget the names of the plants in my garden. Garden labels would have been (and still would be) a useful aide; a set of ten Copper Garden Labels is $18 from Terrain.

    Garrett Wade Gardening Record Keeper Journal, Gifts for Beginning Gardeners, Gardenista

    Above: Help the beginning gardener learn from his or her mistakes; the Gardening Record Keeper includes a journal of 240 acid-free pages for recording information about gardening successes and failures, plans for the next year, saving seeds, and more; $69.30 from Garrett Wade.

    Get your shopping done early; start with our Gift Guide: For the Urban Gardener and Gift Guide: For the Houseplant Enthusiast

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  • 11/27/13--08:00: Leek Latkes Fit for a King
  • It goes without saying that the final word on fried potatoes belongs to David Firestone, dubbed the Latke King of Queens some years back in Molly O'Neill's seminal New York Cookbook. I have the book, and I have had the latkes, and for years that was enough.

    But what is perfection, really? Inevitably one starts to experiment. Didn't Icarus fashion wax wings to fly like a bird? He plummeted to his death after melting near the sun, but this year I added leeks to the Latke King's Hanukkah recipe with no ill effects.

    For a full list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions, see below:

    Photographs by Clementine Quittner. Photography shot with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 digital SLR camera. Small in size, enormous in performance.

    Hanukkah leek latkes ingredients ; Gardenista

    Above: You'll notice the cookbook is falling apart; did the publisher not expect anyone to keep it for 20 years?

    "The country tosses nervously in its bed each night, moaning vaguely for potatoes, fried potatoes, throw in a little onion, please," begins the Latke King's recipe, published in 1992. "It wakes up instead to cold cereal and baked beans, a corroded economy and a failed national promise."

    Hanukkah leek latkes wash leeks ; Gardenista

    Above: The most important thing you need to know about the preparation of leeks is to slice them and scrub them—to remove sand and dirt from between the layers—before you try anything fancy.

    Hanukkah leek latkes chop leeks ; Gardenista

    Above: Chop the leeks finely before you sauté them in a little butter. Then toss the softened leeks in with the potatoes.

    Hanukkah leek latkes ; Gardenista

    Above: The recipe makes about 16 latkes, "which is all you should eat the first night," advises the Latke King. "By the end of Hanukkah, you should be able to eat twice that many."

    Leek Latkes, adapted from "David Firestone's Crispy Potato Latkes"

    Makes 16 latkes


    • 2 1/2 lbs Idaho baking potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed well
    • 2/3 large yellow onion, quartered
    • 3 leeks
    • 1 cup chopped parsley
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1/4 cup matzoh meal
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 to 3 cups olive oil, for frying
    • 16 ounces of applesauce


    Preheat oven to 150 degrees (so you can keep the first batch of latkes warm while you finish cooking the rest).

    Shred potatoes (in a food processor or by hand). Chop the onion and add to shredded potatoes in a colander. Set the colander over a bowl to collect liquid.

    Rinse leeks, chop finely (discarding tough green tips), and sauté in butter over medium heat until they soften (do not brown them) and then add them to the potato mixture.

    From the bowl beneath the potatoes, pour off the liquid, but reserve the potato starch. "This is good for you," says the Latke King. Add the potato mixture to the bowl of reserved starch. Add the eggs, the matzoh meal, the parsley, the salt, and the pepper. Stir everything together and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes.

    In a large cast-iron skillet, pour in 1/4 inch of oil. Over high heat, get the oil hot ("but don't set off the smoke detector.") Spoon in tablespoonfuls of batter and flatten them. Reduce heat to medium and cook until latkes are golden brown on one side (about five minutes). Flip and repeat. 

    As you remove the latkes from the skillet, place them on a folded paper towel on a platter (and keep them warm in the oven).

    Serve the latkes with the applesauce. The Latke King recommends you "remove from the room anyone who prefers latkes with sour cream." Oops.

    For more of our favorite holiday recipes, see Raw Kale Salad with Apples and Almonds and Mulled Apple Cider with a Secret Secret ingredient.

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    home depot logo

    We know that it's what inside that really counts, but we can't help ourselves: we like the outside of the gifts we give to look as pretty as the inside. This year, we partnered with The Home Depot to see what kind of unexpected wrapping supplies we could find among the store's aisles.

    Are you going to use the long weekend to get ahead on your holiday shopping and decorating? The Home Depot will be offering specials on Black Friday, including 6-inch poinsettias on sale for 99 cents each. Here are six ideas for wrapping your Black Friday finds.

    Photographs by Erin Boyle. Photography shot with the Canon EOS 70D digital SLR camera, with Dual Pixel AF technology and built-in Wi-Fi.

    gift wrap ideas | gardenista

    Above: We used 1 Ft. Brown All Purpose Masking Paper ($3.97) as the base for most of our smaller packages, and thicker Brown Builder's Paper ($10.97) for gifts with a little more heft. 

    gift wrap ideas | gardenista

    Above: Who knew that brass nuts could be so festive? Strung onto White Household Twine ($2.57) and paired with tiny brass bells from the 20-Count Assorted Mini Ornaments Pack ($7.68), the Assorted Brass Machine Screw Nuts (from $1.19 to $2.38 per package depending on the size of nut) add an unexpected dash of glitz and glamor.  

    gift wrap ideas | gardenista

    Above: If you've got some extra time and want to get a little bit fancy, we say why not gild the lily? We used the Martha Stewart Artist Brush Set ($5.97) to paint eucalyptus with Martha Stewart Textured Metallic Paint in Vintage Gold ($4.97). After the paint dried, we strung a mini bronze ornament and affixed the festooned branch to our package with Scotch Masking Tape ($2.73).

    gift wrap ideas | gardenista

    Above: Sometimes we like to give a little sneak preview of what's inside a package. For a hardware-themed gift, we used Firm Grip Grain Pigskin Gloves ($8.87) as a teaser for what's inside. Because the package was oversized, we used an appropriately hefty "ribbon": 1/4-inch Natural Sisal Rope ($5.58). A branch of silver brunia finished the look.

    gift wrap ideas | gardenista

    Above: For a modern look, we paired bright green Scotch Masking Tape for Hard-to-Stick Surfaces ($4.97) with White Birch Real Wood Veneer ($6.35) and Natural Sisal Twine ($2.57).

    Paper Key Tags ($5.95) made the perfect gift tags and we decided to give a sneak peek of the Husky 28-piece Combo Wrench Set ($19.88) we were wrapping by pulling out the tiniest wrenches to tie to the outside of the package (see the finished look below). 

    gift wrap ideas | gardenista

    Above: We're gardeners, so we've always got some green twine lying around (Jute Natural Garden Twine; $2.98). Turns out that paired with a few red Ilex berries, it's just right for holiday gift wrapping, too. We added a Honey-Can-Do Traditional Clothespin ($19.24 for 96) as a special spot to tuck a card or label. 

    gift wrap ideas | gardenista

    Above: What did we do with those difficult-to-wrap items? We eschewed the ubiquitous gift bag for a vessel useful beyond the holidays. We removed The Home Depot's 42-piece HDX Screwdriver Set from its blister pack for easier wrapping. By tucking them into a Leaktite Metal Pail ($10.44) and topping them with a bundle of burlap (an 80-by-80-inch square of Easy Gardener Burlap is $6.57) and a layer of Paperwhite Bulbs (24 bulbs for $24), we managed to disguise the screwdrivers and offer a little something extra at the same time. 

    gift wrap ideas | gardenista

    Above: A gold bow made from Martha Stewart Regal Holiday Ribbon ($6.58) and a sprig of green eucalyptus lend an additional touch of holiday spirit.

    gift wrap ideas | gardenista

    Above: Et voila: all of our winter gift packages wrapped and ready for...unwrapping. Forgive us if we take a few minutes to admire our handiwork first.

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    I have no trouble falling in love with plants—I bring so many home, like strays, that my family has put a cap on it: five a month. But pots and planters are a different story; it's much harder to find good ones. Or so I used to think. A set of three small round basketweave pots by Vagabond Vintage, spotted via Mothology, has changed my mind:

    concrete round basketweave plant pots l Gardenista

    Above: Available in three sizes, Concrete Round Basket Containers range in price from $9 to $13 from Mothology. Heights range from 3.75 inches high to 5.5 inches high.

    Fussing over your favorite houseplants? Browse our Shop Pages for more of our favorite Pots and Planters.

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    Are you planning a Thanksgiving menu? This week we'll be suggesting a few of the feast-worthy garden-to-table recipes from the past year:

    Olivia Rae James of Everyday Musings sees apples and her mind skips directly over pie to rustic, buttery crisps. We like the way her mind works. 

    When we asked her to devise a very-September recipe us, she substituted coconut oil for more traditional butter and added coconut and almonds to a crumbly topping. Topped off with a coconut whipped cream, her Apple Coconut Crisp is an unexpected twist on our fall comfort food of choice. Excuse us while we preheat the oven.

    For an ingredients list and step-by-step instructions, see below.

    Photographs by Olivia Rae James for Gardenista.

    apple coconut crumble | gardenista

    Above: Tart Pink Lady apples ready to be cored and cut. 

    apple coconut crumble | gardenista

    Above: Olivia left the skins on her apples, but cored and cut them into evenly sized cubes.

    apple coconut crumble | gardenista

    Above: The makings for a crumbly topping: slivered almonds, oats, palm sugar, flour, and unsweetened coconut. Olivia mixed the apples with lemon, cinnamon, sugar and arrowroot, which acts like cornstarch to thicken the fruit filling.

    apple coconut crumble | gardenista

    Above: Baked for 35 minutes until brown and bubbling.

    apple coconut crumble | gardenista

    Above: Olivia's secret to making a whipped coconut cream? Refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk overnight until the cream and milk have separated.

    apple coconut crumble | gardenista

    Above: Served in single serving mason jars, it will blend in discreetly with the rest of your brown-bag lunch. 

    Apple Coconut Crisp

    For the filling:

    • 4 pink lady apples, cubed
    • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
    • 2 teaspoons arrowroot
    • 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

    For the crumble topping:

    • 1/3 cup flour
    • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
    • 1/2 cup oats
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
    • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
    • 8 tablespoons coconut oil or 1 stick of butter

    For the coconut whipped cream:

    • 1 15-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
    • 1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the fruit base, mix apples, lemon juice and zest, arrowroot, and sugar. Pour evenly into a baking dish. Next, mix dry ingredients: flour, sugar, oats, coconut, almonds, cinnamon, and salt. Incorporate coconut oil last with a pastry cutter (or by using your hands), until mixture is coated and holding together in clumps. Distribute topping evenly over the fruit mixture. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. For the coconut whipped cream: begin by refrigerating a can of coconut milk overnight, or for at least a few hours until cream and water separate. Use only the cream, and whip with an electric mixer, slowly incorporating sugar and vanilla extract. To serve: spoon a dollop of cream on top of the warm crisp.

    Would you like us to send you a new recipe every Friday? Subscribe to our Gardenista Daily email. For more of our favorite dinners, see our complete list of Garden-to-Table Recipes.

    N.B. This is an update of a post that originally published on September 13, 2013.

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    Are you planning a Thanksgiving menu? This week we'll be suggesting a few of the feast-worthy garden-to-table recipes from the past year:

    Brooklyn blogger Marie Viljoen's brand-new cookbook 66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life has arrived on my doorstep just in time.

    The pear tree in my backyard is an overachiever this year. I've canned pears, pear-walnut bread, and pear butter. Still the fruit keeps coming. Tonight's dessert: pears roasted in red wine, courtesy of 66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life ($17.97 from Amazon).

    Read on for an ingredients list and step-by-step instructions.

    Photographs via 66 Square Feet.

    66 Square Feet roasted pears via Gardenista

    Marie Viljoen's Pears Roasted in Red Wine with Bay Leaves

    serves 6


    • 12 small pears (or 6 large), peeled
    • 2 cups red wine
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 10 black peppercorns
    • 6 bay leaves

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Halve and core the pears and arrange in a heavy pan or roasting dish. Add the wine, sugar, peppercorns, and bay leaves and place in the oven for two hours, occasionally spooning the wine over the pears. 

    Serve hot, or cool.

    66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life via Gardenista

    Above: Read more about the book at Gardenista Giveaway: 66 Square Feet, a Delicious Life.

    N.B. This is an update of a post that originally published on September 3, 2013.

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    Are you planning a Thanksgiving menu? This week we'll be suggesting a few of the feast-worthy garden-to-table recipes from the past year:

    Some people might dream of pumpkins that turn into carriages, but on chilly October nights I dream of pumpkins that turn into soups. The pumpkin mania at this time of year can go a bit far. Between pumpkin-flavored coffee drinks and pumpkin cookies, we're in the throes of full-on pumpkin overload. But a humble pumpkin soup is so warming and nutritive that it makes me forget my boredom with all of the other pumpkin treats. Paired with a crusty bread and bright green salad, it's the centerpiece of one of my favorite autumn meals. 

    Charleston-based photographer and regular Gardenista contributor Olivia Rae James agrees. She shared this recipe for a pumpkin soup that uses coconut milk and cayenne pepper for an unexpected twist. Nothing saccharine about this pumpkin recipe.

    Would you like us to send you a new recipe every Friday? Subscribe to our Gardenista Daily email.)

    Photographs by Olivia Rae James.

    pumpkin soup by olivia rae james | gardensita

    Above: Not all pumpkins are alike. Making a delicious pumpkin soup is 90 percent about the pumpkin that you choose. Pie pumpkins, though serviceable in a pie that's filled with cream and eggs and loads of sweeteners, will likely dissappoint in a pumpkin soup. The flavor is bland and luckluster. Olivia chose the small Red Kuri pumpkin for this soup. The pumpkin has a mild, nutty flavor and smooth flesh that make it perfect for blending into soups.

    pumpkin soup by olivia rae james | gardenista

    Above: She coated pumpkin cubes with sea salt, black pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne for kick.

    pumpkin soup by olivia rae james | gardensita

    Above: Roasting the pumpkins with the seasoning helps bring out the sweet, rich flavor of the pumpkin.

    pumpkin soup by olivia rae james | gardensita

    Above: Next, Olivia combined the pumpkin with coconut milk and vegetable stock in a blender. If your pumpkin cools during this process, pour the mixture into a sauté pan and reheat.

    pumpkin soup by olivia rae james | gardensita

    Roasted Pumpkin Soup


    • 1 small red kuri pumpkin (or any autumn squash), cubed
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
    • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 2 cups vegetable stock
    • 1 cup coconut milk


    Chop pumpkin into one-inch cubes and coat with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. Roast on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and slightly charred, rotating on the pan every 8 minutes or so. Transfer roasted pumpkin to a blender with vegetable stock and coconut milk and blend until smooth (watching carefully to make sure it doesn't boil over). As the liquid thickens, add mustard, salt, and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the layered celeriac, covering completely (if it looks soupy, all the better). Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top, covering completely. Garnish with a sprig or two of thyme and bake for from 35 to 40 minutes, until the liquid is burbling and the cheese has turned richly golden-brown. Serve hot, preferably in front of a roaring fire.

    For more of our favorite dinners, see our complete list of Garden-to-Table Recipes.

    N.B. This is an update of a post that originally ran on October 18, 2013.

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    Are you planning a Thanksgiving menu? This week we'll be suggesting a few of the feast-worthy garden-to-table recipes from the past year:

    A world in which people get together over pie is where we want to live. And it will be Beth Kirby's pie. Here's how Kirby, who blogs at Local Milk, makes it: with spiced pears, and gorgonzola cheese, and toasted walnuts under a lattice of flaky dough. We'll be right over, Beth (better bake two):

    For a list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions, see Local Milk.

    Photographs by Beth Kirby via Local Milk.

    pear and walnut pie by Beth Kirby l Gardenista

    Above: Of course there is lard in the crust. Why would you even ask; you see how flaky it is. (If you want to substitute butter or vegetable shortening, that will be delicious too.)

    pears for pear and walnut pie by beth kirby l Gardenista

    Above: It takes five firm pears to make one of these pies. After you slice them thin (Beth uses a mandoline), toss the slices in orange blossom water.

    peeling pears for pie by Beth Kirby l Gardenista

    Above: Walnuts, pears, dark brown sugar...and a pinch of cayenne. For the rest of the ingredients in the pie's filling, see Local Milk.

    pear and walnut pie by beth kirby l Gardenista

    Above: There is also gorgonzola cheese in there, which is what gives the filling a salty sweet balance.

    pear and walnut pie with ice cream by beth kirby l Gardenista

    Above: Don't stint on the ice cream. For the full recipe, see Local Milk.

    Would you like us to send you a new recipe every Friday? Subscribe to our Gardenista Daily email. For more of our favorite dinners, see our complete list of Garden-to-Table Recipes.

    N.B. This is an update of a post that originally ran on October 4, 2013.

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    Are you planning a Thanksgiving menu? This week we'll be suggesting a few of the feast-worthy garden-to-table recipes from the past year:

    Before we reach a point when it's acceptable to light the furnaces and really hunker down for winter, I like to cook things that at the very least require the use of the oven. Truth is, after a summer spent avoiding it, I'm more than ready to fire up the beast and bake my way to an acceptance that warm weather is behind us.

    My go-to comfort food in the fall is a cheesy, decadent gratin. Thinly sliced root vegetables—turnips, parsnips, potatoes, even rutabagas are all good choices—turn into velvety discs underneath all that cream and cheese. Celeriac, which is something of the ugly duckling of the root vegetables, lends its own delicious celery-flavored notes to the dish.

    If you tackle one new vegetable this season, make it celeriac, and enjoy it in a gratin. See below for an ingredients list and step-by-step instructions:

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    celeriac gratin | gardenista

    Above: The finished dish, richly golden and ready for enjoying.

    celeriac gratin | gardenista

    Above: Celeriac gets overlooked because it's ugly and perplexing, at the same time. But treated like any other root vegetable, it can be roasted, mashed, and baked to rib-sticking perfection. 

    celeriac gratin | gardenista

    Above: The original recipe called for turkey or chicken stock, but I substituted a rich vegetable broth instead. Cooking the celeriac in the broth prior to baking gives it a rich flavor and ensures that the root vegetable won't be tough or stringy after baking.

    celeriac gratin | gardenista

    Above: A thick, tough skin makes peeling celeriac seem daunting, but armed with a sharp knife, you can remove the outer layer quite quickly.

    celeriac gratin | gardenista

    Above: After simmering the celeriac, I sliced it into 1/4-inch morsels and layered them in an oval baking dish.

    celeriac gratin | gardenista

    Above: The cooking liquid, seasoned with mustard, salt, and pepper, drowns the layered celeriac.

    celeriac gratin | gardenista

    Above: Topped with a healthy layer of cheese, the gratin is ready for the oven.

    celeriac gratin | gardenista

    Celeriac Gratin with Thyme and Gruyere

    Adapted from the Regina Schrambling's recipe in the LA Times.


    • 1 cup vegetable broth
    • 2 cups heavy cream
    • 2 large celery roots (celeriac bulbs)
    • 2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
    • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese


    In a large pot, bring vegetable broth and cream to a simmer. Trim the ends of your celeriac and use a sharp knife to peel the bulb. (Don't bother with a vegetable peeler, the tough skin needs something sharper.) When the bulbs are peeled, quarter each bulb, lengthwise. Add celeriac to the pot of simmering liquid. Cover and cook, turning occasionally, until the celeriac is tender (about 30 mins).

    Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove pot from heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer celeriac pieces to a large cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice the celeriac into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

    Layer the sliced celeriac in the bottom of an ungreased baking dish. Worry some over creating a pretty design, but not too much. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Bring the liquid remaining in the pot to a boil (watching carefully to make sure it doesn't boil over). As the liquid thickens, add mustard, salt, and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the layered celeriac, covering completely (if it looks soupy, all the better). Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top, covering completely. Garnish with a sprig or two of thyme and bake for from 35 to 40 minutes, until the liquid is burbling and the cheese has turned richly golden-brown. Serve hot, preferably in front of a roaring fire.

    Would you like us to send you a new recipe every Friday? Subscribe to our Gardenista Daily email.  For more of our favorite dinners, see our complete list of Garden-to-Table Recipes.

    N.B. This is an update of a post that originally published on October 11, 2013.

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    If you were preparing for Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night, and recovering from it on Thursday night, the third night of Hanukkah might be the first time that you actually pay attention to the holiday this year. Given that, it doesn't feel right to pull out some carved up, probably over-chilled leftover pies for the big finale. 

    See below for ingredients and step-by-step instructions for a Hanukkah pumpkin chiffon cake:

    Photographs by Clementine Quittner. Photography shot with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 digital SLR camera. Small in size, enormous in performance.

    Hanukkah pumpkin chiffon cake l Gardenista

    The women’s magazine from which my mother snipped a pumpkin chiffon cake recipe many decades ago is lost to history. But the cake is my pumpkin-season go-to, partly because it freezes well and partly because it delivers the thrill of a great pumpkin pie without the richness.

    Hanukkah pumpkin chiffon cake l Gardenista

     It’s a classic chiffon cake, lightened by baking powder and egg whites, flavored with pumpkin puree and traditional pumpkin pie spices. But I like it even better flavored with garam masala, the Indian spice blend of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves (and sometimes mace, depending on the blend you buy). If you’ve got a jar of Middle Eastern Baharat spice blend, you could use that instead (check to see if yours includes pepper – essential for that lingering taste on your tongue).

      Hanukkah pumpkin chiffon cake l Gardenista

    Mom ices the cake with a thick maple frosting and covers it in chopped walnuts. I prefer it plain, served on Hanukkah with nothing but a big bowl of clementines, and maybe some roasted chestnuts that will keep friends at the table, peeling and telling stories (while the kids empty the bowl of chocolate gelt you left on the piano).

    Hanukkah pumpkin chiffon cake l Gardenista

     If you like, you can spread the top with a glaze. Thin a cup of confectioner’s sugar with a few drops of maple syrup (or maple extract and milk), and spread it on top of the cake with an offset spatula, letting it drip down the sides. While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle the cake with chopped, toasted walnuts.


    • 2 cups cake flour 
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 3 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • Either 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon each of cloves, nutmeg and ginger, OR 2 teaspoons garam masala, ½ teaspoon ginger and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
    • 7 large eggs, separated
    • ¾ cup canned pumpkin puree
    • ½ cup canola oil
    • ½ cup water
    • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

    Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl (except cream of tartar). Separate eggs. Mix the yolks in a small bowl with the pumpkin, oil and water. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the pumpkin mixture, whisking it until smooth. Beat egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar, then beat until whites are stiff.

    Mix a spoonful of whites into the batter to lighten it. Then fold in the rest. Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake for about 55 minutes, watching it carefully. When the top is just turning brown, it’s done (test with a toothpick – the cake is done if it comes out clean).

    Invert the cake pan while it cools. When the cake is completely cool, you can glaze or frost it if desired, or serve plain with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

    What else are you serving for Hanukkah? Allow us to suggest Leek Latkes Fit for a King.

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    Growing up in the country, I had parents who did their utmost to exploit the natural world as a source for our amusement. This meant not only long walks in the woods, but also a heathy dose of nature crafts—sun prints in summer, waxed paper leaves in fall, milkweed bearded Santas in winter, and daisy chains in the spring.

    Many seasons later, getting creative with nature is, well, second nature to me. And now that I have children of my own to occupy and inspire, I'm constantly casting about for new projects. Here are some standouts that recently caught the eye of this crafty gardener.

    sun print fabric kit from Terrain, Gardenista

    Above: I've made many a sun print or cyanotype on paper, but not on fabric. Thus I am intrigued by this Cotton Sun Printing Kit from Terrain; $48. With instructions and one 3-by-4-foot sheet of specially treated photographic cotton, all you need are plants and a little sun.

    Garden Maker, Herbs, , Gardenista

    Above: Including seeds, labels, and instructions, each Gardener Makers Seed Kit is an excellent starter for small gardens and habitats. Available in culinary herb (pictured above from Terrain), as well as butterfly habitat, bird habitat, and vegetable at Bambeco; $25.

    DIY cast stone planter from Terrain, Gardenista

    Above: Just add water; One-Of-A-Kind Concrete Planter Kits from Native Cast contain all you need to create your very own cast stone pot, including the dirt and plants. Basil (pictured above from Terrain); $18. More varieties available from Native Cast.

    Plant paints by Gypsa, Gardenista

    Above: Housed in a recycled metal box, Gypsya's Watercolor Set features 20 vivid pigments made from natural flowers; $42. Also available in hues made from Stone; $42.

    Wooden Letterpress Printing set from Williams Sonoma, Gardenista

    Above: Create you own custom nature inspired labels and cards with William Sonoma Agrarian's Letterpress Wood Printing Plates; $29.95. Set includes 16 high-quality photopolymer plates with bark, twig, and leaf designs.

    Geode Terrarium from Bird and Feather, Gardenista

    Above: Complete with glass geode, jute twine, sand, moss, plants, and instructions, Bird and Feather's Air Plant Terrarium Kit has all you need to form your own mini indoor garden; $34.

    Microfleur flower press kit, Gardenista

    Above: Pressed flowers in a matter of minutes, not days, the Microfleur Microwave Flower Press dries specimens in just 90 seconds. Available from Elizabeth Flowers; 5-by-5-inch Microfleur Microwave Flower Press for $24.95; or 9"x9" Microfleur Microwave Flower Press for $42.50.

    N.B. Looking for more ideas for the crafty gardener? Our DIY inspirations will keep you busy for ages. (See our other Gift Guides for other folks on your list.)

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    It's Friday, the third night of Hanukkah. You could re-heat Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, but why? After yesterday's spiced pecans, roast turkey, five side dishes and two kinds of pie, you want simplicity. And what could be more simple than crispy friend potatoes? 

    On the many nights of Hanukkah when we've made potato latkes the sole entrée at my house, I've never heard a complaint. For that, I can thank my neighbor Dorothy. Dorothy has been married to Arthur for more than 50 years. Every night after dinner, Arthur wants just one thing from Dorothy. A bowl of applesauce. It's got to be homemade. And it's got to be delicious. With Dorothy's special applesauce snuggling up to the latkes on your plate, no one will be missing yesterday's drumstick. 

    For ingredients and step-by-step instructions, see below:

    Photographs by Zoe Quittner. Photography shot with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 digital SLR camera. Small in size, enormous in performance.

    Dorothy's Applesauce Hanukkah l Gardenista

     Above: Photograph by Zoe Quittner.

    You can make Dorothy's applesauce in any quantity. The trick is to use a ratio of two sweet apples for each tart one. Dorothy likes to mix Cortlands with Granny Smiths, but you can substitute McIntoshes with Pippins, or, really, whatever you have in the back of your crisper drawer.

    Dorothy's Applesauce Hanukkah l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Zoe Quittner.

    Dorothy peels cores, and slices 18 apples and puts them into the strainer basket of a 12-quart pasta pot (in my house, an 8-quart pot suffices because that’s what I have). Then she puts about a half-inch of water in the bottom of the pot and steams the apples, turning down the flame after the water has boiled. As the apples soften, she uses a big wooden spoon to push the apple pulp through the holes of the strainer until all she has in the bottom of her pot is sauce. 

    Dorothy's Applesauce Hanukkah l Gardenista


    Above: Photograph by Clementine Quittner.

    Since I generally make applesauce in smaller quantities, I usually just cook apples in a little water in a saucepan until they’re soft enough to mash with a fork. It’s what comes next that elevates this sauce above the rest. 

    When her sauce has cooled a bit but is still warm, Dorothy adds a quarter teaspoon of vanilla. Then she reaches for her jar of vanilla sugar (granulated sugar perfumed by a vanilla bean), and adds it by the spoonful until it’s exactly as sweet as Arthur likes it (usually around a quarter-cup).

     If you didn’t know about that drop of vanilla, you’d never taste it. But it somehow makes the apples taste more intensely apple-ish. 

    If my son is around when there’s applesauce on the stove, he’s likely to grab the warm pot and the wooden spoon, plop on the couch for a “Mythbusters” marathon, and spoon away until the pot is empty and there are no more myths to be busted.

    Hanukkah applesauce recipe l Gardenista

    Before yours vanishes, you might store the applesauce in a tightly covered container in the fridge, then bring it to room temperature before you serve it with latkes for dinner. 

    Dorothy's Applesauce


    • 12 Cortland apples
    • 6 Granny Smith apples
    • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
    • Vanilla sugar to taste


    Peel, core and slice your apples. Pile them into the strainer of an 8-quart or 12-quart stainless steel pasta pot. Put about ½ an inch of water in the bottom of the pot, bring it to a boil and steam the apples (the Cortlands will soften first). As the apples soften, push them through the strainer holes into the water in the bottom of the pot. 

    When the sauce has cooled a bit, stir in the vanilla and vanilla sugar to taste.

    Serve the applesauce on Leek Latkes Fit for a King.

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    Spotted via Feliz, a collection of cement planters wrapped in metal leaf from Austin, TX-based designer Joanna Wojtkowiak. To us, they scream "holiday season."

    Above: Wojtkowiak molds the planters in used almond milk containers and adds silver or gold leaf, or enamel. She sells the Concrete Cube Planters on Etsy, for prices ranging from $16 to $25.

    Above: A Cubic Concrete Planter With Tiny Tree-ish Succulent is $25.

    Above: Wojtkowiak typically does not seal the leaf; it will oxidize and darken. Planters with sealed leaf are also available, upon request. For more information, see her Oh, Laszlo shop on Etsy.

    N.B. This is an update of a post that originally published on December 6, 2013.

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