A New Challenge

IMG_3879I started this GardeningB blog last year, after reading Elle Luna’s book “The Crossroads of Should and Must” and meeting her at our local bookstore. Several people in the audience were talking about THE 100-DAY PROJECT, a creative challenge they had just started, and that got me thinking about reigniting my creative side. I jumped in, a week or so later, starting my own 100-Day Project. I chose to blog a story every day, for 100 days, about edible gardening. It would be a challenge for me because I hadn’t written much since I had worked as a writer/producer of videos, years ago… and I had done that as part of my job, not for “fun.” I began blogging and taking corresponding pictures for this “project”, starting on May 25 and officially ending on September 2, 2015, without missing a day. I even managed to post while travelling and during a vacation on a cruise ship, with sketchy internet connections. I kept blogging after completing the project, but not every day. Now that I have had time to reflect on the 100-day experience, I would say that it was tremendously rewarding to write and share stories every day.

I had many special moments during those 3+ months of blogging. I was at a party and several people walked up to me and asked for gardening advise–people who I wasn’t even acquainted with or friends who I didn’t know were following my blog stories. One night I went to a Farm-to-Table dinner downtown. I saw my hairdresser and his partner there. When I asked how they knew about the dinner, they said they had read about it on my blog. A few people started herb gardens and planted fruit trees, telling me that I had inspired them. A couple of people began harvesting rain in barrels to water their plants. Others told me that they were motivated to taste fruit they had never heard of before and to try new recipes. I also received gifts of fruit from followers and was sent gardening tips and photos.

When I completed the 100 days, I was asked if I was going to continue writing. I thought I would. I tried to post regularly. Then I got busy with other things. The writing became sporadic. My attention shifted to new interests. I took a drawing class, began Italian classes, and I increased my daily exercising… And I’m still working, which takes up the largest chunk of my days. I tried to get back into a writing routine but I just didn’t have the time. And my creative energy was now going toward other endeavors.

When I heard a new 100-Day Project was starting in 2016, I decided to participate again. I ruminated over several days about which new creative thing to do for 100 days. What I wanted to get better at and do more of is to DRAW.  So that is what I decided to do. My new challenge is to create one drawing everyday on a mini canvas (3” X 3”) using only black and white Sharpie markers. The project isn’t about making a perfect product every day; it is about the process, the practice. What will I learn about drawing, while I am doing it every day? What will I learn about myself? Where will the practice take me?

I started my project on April 19th and have been posting my drawings, with explanations, every day on Instagram (@gardeningB) and Twitter (@superbMiami). If you want to follow along with me, please do! I think you can link to Instagram at the bottom left side of my website or here. I will also share my experiences on this blog, every couple of weeks or so. Wish me luck dear friends! And if I can encourage you on your own creative challenge, please let me know. ♥ The pictures on this post are of my first drawings on mini canvases.

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New Papaya Tree

IMG_3330My newest papaya plant is full of fruit. This tree is only 7’ tall so the fruit will be easy to pick once they are ripe. Papaya is also called lechosa and fruta bomba in Spanish. In Australia and some countries of the Caribbean, it is called papaw or pawpaw. The mature fruit can weigh up to 20 pounds!

Making Dehydrated Treats

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Dehydrated Star Fruit

I have wanted a Food Dehydrator for some time and had begun researching which one to buy. So when I read my sister’s email a couple of weeks ago, “What do you want for Christmas?” I replied with a model number. Sure enough, Santa promptly delivered the much-anticipated Food Dehydrator… thanks to my sister & her husband! For my first batch, I sliced-up fresh star fruit, papaya and banana. These fruits were all from my trees. I also sliced some fresh carrots; and lastly I added some frozen string beans. I assembled all the pieces on the trays, stacked them on top of each other, put on the top, set the temperature and turned the gizmo on. I checked the progress every few hours. It was not a quick process. I was surprised that it took approximately 12 hours for everything to be fully dried.

Of all my friends and family who tasted the assorted foods I dried, most people liked the star fruit the best. It just had a great texture and taste. It was a huge hit. The papaya and banana were also excellent. Now for the failures: the carrots felt and tasted like leather; and the string beans had a strange chewy consistency. I’m not sure what I did wrong with the carrots. As for the string beans, I’m going to try fresh beans next time, instead of frozen, to see if this makes a difference.

Happy New Year everyone. Make it a great one!!!!

My First Persimmon

IMG_3129 (2)I only discovered persimmon when I was visiting my brother Carlos, in Sacramento, California, 13 months ago. He had a basket of it on his kitchen counter that his neighbor who was growing it had given him. Carlos had never tasted the fruit either. So we sliced one open and ate it. I was astonished at how good it tasted. So Carlos gave me a few of the precious bounty and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.

When I saw persimmon trees on sale at my local nursery this past May, I took one home, even though persimmons don’t usually fruit well in south Florida. The variety I purchased– Fuyu Persimmon– is bred for our hot climate and is supposed to need less cold days to develop fruit. The little tree had three tiny persimmon growing on its’ limbs, which the saleslady told me would fall off because the tree was still too small to fully develop the fruit. But I held out hope that they would grow large enough to eat.

I placed the new tree along the side of the house until I could figure out where I wanted to plant it in my yard. Then I sort of forgot about it. By the time I began to pay attention to it again, it had dried out. All the leaves had fallen off, but the three tiny persimmons still clung to the tree. I promptly planted the tree and began to faithfully water it. Leaves grew back. Then one immature fruit fell off. Then the second immature fruit fell off. But the last remaining fruit (pictured) tenaciously hung on and did eventually grow large enough to eat. Can’t wait till next year’s crop!

The Perfect Peppermint Bark

AIMG_3476One of our much anticipated holiday traditions is the making of Peppermint Bark. It started with my mother who purchased some Bark, which she shared with us, about 6 years ago. Everybody loved the sweet treat. Then the following year she read a recipe in the newspaper and decided to hand-make Bark for the family. The first batch was a little too thick and difficult to cut, but yummy anyway. The next year, she collaborated with my brother-in-law John to produce a fantastic Bark. The year after that, John enthusiastically took over the Bark making completely, tweaking the recipe with his top-secret ingredients. He has been perfecting it every holiday season since. Here’s this year’s formerly secret recipe:


  • 10 oz. dark chocolate
  • 5 oz. white chocolate
  • 5 oz. Hershey Kisses (candy cane variety)
  • 4 to 6 candy canes


Cover a large cookie sheet with wax paper. Melt the dark chocolate and pour onto the lined cookie sheet. Smooth it out into a thin layer with a plastic spatula. Put it into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to harden. Melt together 3/4 of the white chocolate & all the Hershey kisses and pour on top of the hardened dark chocolate layer. Smooth out to cover completely. Break up 4 – 6 candy canes and sprinkle on the top layer. The final artistic touch is to spoon the left-over white chocolate on top. Put it back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to harden. Remove from the refrigerator and cut the Bark in squares with a pizza cutter or knife. Place the squares into a holiday tin. Put the tin in the freezer for 10-15 minutes for the Bark to harden completely. And now it’s ready to eat!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

The Papaya Whisperer

IMG_3354 (3)I am so thankful to my gardener for helping me cut down these large papayas from my very tall papaya tree. I just couldn’t maneuver the fruit-picking pole between the high hedges and the electrical wires to get at these beauties. He got them easy…although a fourth papaya was accidentally knocked into the yard of my NeighborWithCameras. We weren’t able to retrieve it because there is a wall protecting their side yard from mine, not to mention the security cameras trained on us. I hope they are grateful for the tasty treat that fell out of the heavens onto their grass!

Pasta with Collard Greens

IMG_3376 (2)I wasn’t fond of collard greens so when I saw a big bunch of them in my CSA box, I thought I’d incorporate them in a pasta dish. I started with the recipe in the newsletter and modified it a bit. First of all, I added more garlic. My motto is that if you add enough fresh garlic to any greens, they will taste better. So here are the ingredients:

  • 12 large collard green leaves (stemmed & ripped-up)
  • 1 red onion (chopped)
  • 4 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • olive oil
  • half of a fresh cayenne pepper (chopped finely)
  • ground black pepper (optional)
  • pasta of your choice (I used whole wheat rotini noodles)
  • parmesan cheese (optional, omit if vegan)

Sauté the onion and garlic in a little olive oil in a deep skillet. When the onion has just turned tender and translucent (in about 5 minutes), add the collard greens and cayenne pepper to the skillet. Add a little water to the pan and simmer until the greens are tender (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently. Add fresh ground black pepper, if you wish. Cook the pasta in a separate pot. When the pasta is done, you can serve it on plates and add the collard greens mixture on the top, as I did, or blend it with the noodles before serving. If you eat cheese, sprinkle shaved or shredded parmesan on the dish. Serves 2-4 people.

For someone who had never liked collard greens, this dish was a tasty revelation! I also loved the extra zest the cayenne pepper provided.

Cream of Potato & Fennel Soup w/Mushrooms

IMG_3374I wasn’t sure what to do with the giant fennel bulb that came in my CSA box yesterday, so I started with the soup recipe that came in the newsletter and modified it a bit. Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 onion
  • 2 medium thin-skinned potatoes
  • 2 ½ cups water or stock
  • ½ cup mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • ground black pepper

Chop-up the fennel bulb and onion and cook in a little water, until soft. Add cubed potatoes and rest of water. Simmer until potato is soft. Use a hand-blender (or other method) to cream the soup. In a separate skillet, sauté the mushrooms in oil or use the mushrooms raw if you prefer. Pour soup into bowls, add mushrooms and a feathery fennel garnish to each. Serves 4.

The soup tastes similar to potato/leak but with a hint of anise from the fennel.


IMG_3344 (3)Washing the vegetables I received in my CSA today: baby carrots w/tops, Asian salad turnips, collard greens, fennel w/tops, lettuce, eggplant, cucumber, bell pepper, cubanelle pepper (sweet), cayenne pepper (hot) and dandelion greens. If you’re not familiar with CSA, it means Community Supported Agriculture. You subscribe to receive a share of the harvest of a local farm or various local farms during the growing season, which in South Florida is approximately 5 months. The food is delivered fresh, in season. Thanks to Bee Heaven Farm for a great box today that contained produce from Paradise Farms, Worden Farm and C&B Farms.